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California Unemployment Hits Men Hardest

23 June 2009

Men Filling out ApplicationsThe bottom has yet to reached in California.  The Los Angeles Times yesterday reported that the unemployment rate for May was 11.5% (“Jobless Rate Sets New State Record,” Los Angeles Times 20 June 2009).  While this increase in joblessness follows patterns, a trend now being noticed is that men are the ones being laid off.  Men and women suffered the same rates of unemployment until December 2007, when three out of every four jobs lost were those of men.  The Times softened the data by graphing the twelve-month average: men averaging 9.6% unemployment versus women’s 8.2%.  In any case, the paper claims, California is in a serious “man-cession.”

Two reasons f0r the trend are suggested.  First, men account for most of the skilled trade labor, largely associated with the housing industry.  Since building has crept to a halt, it’s no surprise that men, who do the bulk of building, plumbing, electric work and repairs, are on the hunt for other work.  The other reason the Times glosses over, but I think is significant: the average female worker earns 78% of what a man gets in a similar occupation.  This wage-gap estimate is exagerrated in my opinion, but even if the number is more like 90%, it makes sense why men could be fired more easily and hired more difficultly.  They just demand too much money.  The male unemployment trend will be one of the long-term trends in white collar sectors during recessions as men catch a nasty side-effect of pay wage privilege.

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