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New JEC Report Finds Women Are Increasingly Vulnerable To Job Loss During Recession

Jul 22 2008


Maloney: “Women have been striving for equality with men in jobs and wages, unfortunately what we’ve achieved is equality in losing jobs during recessions.”

Washington, D.C. – The Joint Economic Committee today released a report, requested by Vice Chair Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), finding that the current downturn threatens women’s employment more than ever before. The 2001 recession was the first in decades during which women not only lost jobs, but also did not see their employment rates recover to their pre-recession peak. Unlike in decades past, families can no longer rely on women’s employment to help boost family income during a downturn.  U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer is the Chairman of the Joint Economic Committee.

Maloney said, “Women have been striving for equality with men in jobs and wages, unfortunately what we’ve achieved is equality in losing jobs during recessions. Wives and mothers may not be able to shelter their families from the economic storm that’s hitting now. We need to bear in mind this new reality as we think about policies for addressing this downturn. A second stimulus package should contain aid to the states to forestall cuts in vital services for families and stem the tide of job losses for women who overwhelmingly work in government, health care, and social services.”

Schumer said, “Vice Chair Maloney’s focus on the difficulties facing women during a serious economic downturn is critical in shaping the policies Washington must consider to address this recession.  Working women have fought long and hard for equality of pay and opportunity in the workforce, and we can’t let economic downturns wipe those gains away.  Washington has to do much more to help women and families meet these challenges, and I hope the White House will join Vice Chair Maloney, me, and Democrats in Congress to do just that.”

Analyzing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the JEC report Equality in Job Loss: Women Are Increasingly Vulnerable to Layoffs during Recessions finds the following:

• When women lose jobs, families lose a large share of their income and experience greater economic volatility.
• In recessions prior to 2001, women could buffer family incomes against male unemployment because they did not experience sharp job losses. However, this changed in the 2001 recession as women lost jobs on par with men in the industries that lost the most jobs. In the 2001 recession, compared to men, women lost a larger share of jobs in manufacturing and trade, transportation and utilities. In the other high-job-loss industries, women lost about the same share of jobs as men.
• The lackluster recovery of the 2000s made it difficult for women to regain their jobs – women’s employment rates never returned to their pre-recession peak. Especially striking is that as of 2008, the female employment rate is about six percentage points below where it would have been had women’s employment stayed on its trend line from 1948-2000.
• Over the past three decades, only those families who have a working wife have seen real increases in family income. Families with a non-working wife have income today that is about the same as it had been in 1973, adjusting for inflation.

Families can ill afford to lose a parent’s earnings, especially as costs for basics, like food and gasoline continue to rise. Wives typically bring home more than a third of their family’s income and single mothers are sole breadwinners. The report finds that families are more economically vulnerable as wives are no longer insulating families from economic hardship in times of higher unemployment and falling or stagnant real wages. Single-mother families are now especially vulnerable.

Because women are disproportionately represented in state and local government services, their job losses are likely to grow in the latter part of the recession as state and local governments are forced to implement cut-backs in spending in areas such as education and health care.  The report recommends fiscal aid to the states as an important policy response in the current downturn to help states maintain services, extend healthcare programs and preserve jobs in the face of ensuing budget cuts. Further, challenges facing families to balance work and family responsibilities are exacerbated in the current downturn, signaling a greater need for workplace flexibility.

The full JEC report can be found at

The Joint Economic Committee, established under the Employment Act of 1946, was created by Congress to review economic conditions and to analyze the effectiveness of economic policy.

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