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As Recession Pain Fades, Number of Working-Age Men Begins Catching Up With Women in Labor Force

MONDAY, OCT 21, 2019

The ratio of working-age women to men in the labor force fell for the eighth straight year in 2017, falling to its lowest level since the depths of the Great Recession – even though there are still almost 1.2 million more women at work.

Overall, there were 94.9 million men between the ages of 20 and 64 working in the U.S., according to a Social Explorer analysis; there were 96.1 million working-age women in the labor force. Our analysis of the distribution shows women were most likely to outnumber men in the workforce in small cities clustered in the southern half of the United States.

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The gender gap was most pronounced in Mexico, Mo., a micropolitan area that had been heavily dependent upon manufacturing until 2002. The closure of a major kiln, combined with the 2008 economic collapse that hit men without college degrees hard has meant there’s now   1.3 female workers between the ages of 20 and 64 for every male worker. Other cities with high female-to-male worker ratios included the Mississippi Delta cities of Helena, Ark. (1.23) and Clarksdale, Miss. (1.22); Brownsville, Tenn. (1.20); and Selma, Ala. (1.20)

The figures illustrate the severity of the recession that began in 2008 on working class men without college degrees. More than 30 million people lost jobs, While the number of women in the labor force has risen sharply since the 1970s, a Pew Research Center analysis found that women lost jobs as the recession waned, while men regained employment, especially in the manufacturing and construction industries.

The larger numbers of women in the labor force weren’t just limited to small cities in the South; the five big cities with the greatest ratio of women to men all either were in the Deep South or border states, according to data from the 2013-17 American Community Survey. Among major metros, Memphis, Tenn., reported 1.09 women for every man in the labor force. Atlanta was second (1.07), slightly ahead of Baltimore (1.06), New Orleans (1.06), and Charlotte, N.C. (1.06).

The five places with the greatest imbalance of men to women in the labor force all have economies that rely heavily upon prisons. Susanville, Calif. (0.38), a northern California city where almost half of the workforce is employed by prisons; Beeville, Texas (0.49), which once was described as a prison hub that hoped to become “roughly what Pittsburgh is to steel or Detroit is to cars;” Palestine, Texas (0.49), the East Texas city’s largest employer; Pecos, Texas (0.53), home to one of the largest privately operated prisons in the world; and Cañon City, Colo. (0.58), which hosts the Museum of Colorado Prisons.

The Social Explorer analysis also confirms the image of technology hubs as magnets for a male-dominated industry. Among major metros, San Jose had the greatest imbalance between male and female workers, with 0.95 men for every woman in the labor force. San Diego was second (0.96), followed by the tech-centric cities of Seattle (0.98), and Austin, Texas (0.98).


Author: Frank Bass

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