Executive Summary

Since December 2007, the U.S. economy has been in the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Because much of the slowdown has occurred in traditionally male fields such as manufacturing and construction while a few traditionally female fields such as health and education have shown job growth or minimal job loss, many reports have focused on the job losses among men in the labor force. At the same time the substantial job losses that have also occurred among women in such sectors as retail, hospitality, and personal and business services are not discussed. The number of unemployed women is now 6.3 million (as of December 2009), an increase of 2.8 million unemployed women since the recession began, a number larger than men’s increased unemployment in most previous recessions. Once they lose their jobs, women and men spend a similar number of weeks unemployed; in December 2009, unemployed women and men had been out of work for an astounding 29 weeks, on average. Moreover, a smaller share of unemployed women collect unemployment insurance benefits compared with unemployed men. Between December 2007 and November 2009, 36.8 percent of unemployed women received unemployment benefits, on average, compared with 40.3 percent of unemployed men.