Minnesota’s jobless gender gap is closing. Is that good?

Back in the summer we reported on some fascinating research showing deep gender differences in Minnesota unemployment — gaps bigger here than the nation — during the recession’s peak.

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The biggest revelation then: Sex differences in unemployment are even more pronounced in Minnesota than they are nationally. Male unemployment in Minnesota rose by 5 percent, while female unemployment edged up by less than 0.5 percent from March 2008 to March 2009.

The newest chapter in that research shows the gap has closed since the summer. But that’s not necessarily a good thing. Male unemployment fell in Minnesota, but female unemployment rose significantly over the summer.

We’re hoping to get the researcher, Teri Fritsma, a project consultant for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, to talk more about the study, maybe even in an online forum. Until then, here are the basics of her updated findings:

The male/female unemployment gap shrank substantially through the summer.

The time of year can partly explain the closing gap (women’s higher seasonal unemployment in education and health care and men’s improved employment in construction and other male-dominated sectors during the summer).

Male-dominated industries continue to post the highest levels of unemployment.

Here’s a look at the relevant graph:

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She also notes that another part of the gap doesn’t appear to be seasonal: “Specifically, women’s increasing risk of unemployment in the male-dominated industry sectors.”

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Why the growing unemployment among women in male-dominated industries? It’s not clear.

Fritsma first thought it might be because women held more part-time or clerical jobs in those sectors and those jobs might have taken a disproportionate hit. That doesn’t seem to be the case.

In those male-dominated industries, “neither different occupational employment (which is closely related to both pay and education levels) nor differences in part-time employment can account for the recent rise in female unemployment and drop in male unemployment,” Fritsma wrote.

So the good news is that Minnesota’s He-cession has ebbed. The bad news is that men and women are sharing more equally now in the hardship of unemployment, a burden that’s not likely to improve here for another year.

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Read through Fritsma’s latest research on Minnesota’s unemployment gender gap and let us know what you see. Post below or contact me directly.

If you have a story of employment or unemployment in this economy, share it with us here.

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