The end-of-year jobs data released today, which showed 200,000 new jobs created in December, might have been pretty good overall news — and good news for Obama — but if you drill down a little deeper, it wasn't great news for the ladies. As economist Betsey Stevenson pointed out, that net gain represented an additional 264,000 jobs for men, and 84,000 fewer for women.
December wasn't an isolated incident, either. In the final summing up over the past year, white men have picked up the most jobs, 1.21 million; white women, by comparison, lost 181,000. Black men's gains (248,000) were less dramatic, but still remarkable compared with black women's losses (112,000). That doesn't mean, necessarily, that all those women have lost their actual jobs. As Catherine Rampell of the Times pointed out recently, there's been a spike in young women who've opted for more schooling over work, and so those women are taking themselves out of the work force. But that doesn't entirely explain the disparity. Rampell points to a couple other factors that could contribute:
Some studies suggest that women are pickier about their job choices than men. Already earning lower pay, women are less willing to work when wages fall further, especially if they are able to rely on an employed (and these days, often newly re-employed) husband. Women are also more reluctant to work night or weekend shifts, according to government data on how Americans spend their time, partly because they have more family responsibilities.
So if the pickier gender isn't picking up new jobs, maybe that takes the shine off the employment data some. When we talk about Americans' feelings about the economy heading into the election, it can be easy to forget that not everyone experiences the recovery at the same speed — even in the same household. Female voters, a demo Obama needs on his side in a big way, might not be feeling quite as rosy about things as their male counterparts, who are already more inclined, historically, to go for the Republican candidate.
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