Unemployment rates broken down by gender reveal a classic good news, bad news dichotomy.
For women, the good news is simple: We have regained all the jobs lost during the recession.
Overall, 68 million women said they were employed last month — more than the 67.97 million who had jobs when the recession began in December 2007. Men are still in the red, on the other hand. Only 76.2 million were employed last month, down from the 78.3 million total pre-recession.
In fact, while the broader unemployment rate is still sitting north of 7%, the same isn’t true if you back out all the men. Last month, the unemployment rate for women was 6.8% vs. 7.7% for men, while its even lower looking at just women over 20: 6.3% vs. 7.1% for men of the same age group.
Click to EnlargeJust take a look at the chart to the right, showing the monthly unemployment rate for folks over 20 so far this year, broken down by gender.
Of course, on the men’s side, that 7.1% figure sure is an improvement from the ugly double-digit rates that touched 10.4% in October of 2009 and didn’t drop into single digits until May of 2010.
Still, that’s hardly much solace.
The unemployment rate difference simply stems from the fact that more men work in construction and manufacturing — sectors that were hard-hit by the Great Recession, and have also been slow to recover.
But while women have recovered their lost jobs on a nominal basis, we have clear quality vs. quantity issue — and that’s the bad news.
About 60% of the increase in employment for women from 2009 until 2012 was in jobs that pay less than $10.10 per hour — not too far off the minimum wage in some states. Zoom in on the male unemployment situation, and you have a small ray of sunshine: Only 20% of their employment gains fall into that low-wage category.
Joan Entmacher, vice president for family economic security at the National Women’s Law Center, told Bloomberg that “women have taken restaurant and retail jobs instead of teaching and other public-sector career positions that have disappeared.”
More bad news: Many of those are part-time — less than 34 hours of work a week.
An employee making the maximum $10.10 for this category and working the maximum part-time 34 hours a week brings home about $340 per week before taxes.
Sure, she’s employed — helping the jobs recovery and unemployment rate. But it hardly seems worth celebrating.
The bottom line: Women may be “winning” the jobs recovery … but only if you consider job quantity more important that job quality.
And men, of course, have been winning the quality battle for sometime, if pay is any indication. According to a recent Census report, the median earnings of women who worked full time in 2012 came to just under $38,000 — just 77% of the what full-time working men made.
Alyssa Oursler is an Assistant Editor at InvestorPlace. Follow her on Twitter @alyssaoursler.