The ‘man’ factor

Until I heard American Public Media’s Marketplace on Friday evening, I had no idea that the economic downturn and the resulting unemployment is falling disproportionately on men.

Men make up 82 percent of the total number of people eliminated from the country’s workforce and for the first time, women are poised to pass men in the majority, according to the New York Times.

“Given how stark and concentrated the job losses are among men, and that women represented a high proportion of the labor force in the beginning of this recession, women are now bearing the burden — or the opportunity, one could say — of being breadwinners,” says Heather Boushey, a senior economist at the Center for American Progress, told the newspaper.

It is a huge societal shift with changing roles.

“Oh yeah, of course. For a while there we were calling him the man maid, because he was doing all the house work while I worked,” Michelle Tully, whose husband, Stephen, is laid-off.

As recently as 2005, the unemployment rates for men and women were about equal, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only in the early ’80s have they varied much.


Still, women are likely to make less money, work fewer hours, and have no benefits in their soon-to-be workplace majority.

The situation, meanwhile, is setting up an interesting political debate as Congress considers President Obama’s stimulus package. If men are bearing the brunt of unemployment, should the economic stimulus favor men?

“Absent efforts to increase worker diversity in infrastructure-related jobs — this could lead to a shift of hundreds of billions of dollars of wealth from women to men,” Rep. Jared Polis, D-CO. said in a letter to President Obama last month.

  • nikki

    So, men should get a bigger piece of the stimulus pie because companies are cutting their most expensive labor? Maybe we would see more equality if men and women were paid equally to begin with!

  • bigalmn

    No the stimulus should just try to create jobs. Does not matter if it is sex, race etc. there should be no discrimination either way. In the end everything will balance itself out.

  • Alison

    It’s sad there is even a comment about the man doing the housework. If the tables were turned it wouldn’t be news. If this family is like many, the wife was doing most of the housework AND working a job besides. A silver lining to this downturn would be if some of the now unemployed men continued helping out more once they are employed again.

  • Nikki has it right, I think — more men are being laid off because they are more expensive to maintain. This story is based in a specious argument.

  • Bob Collins

    This story is based on a specious argument? Let’s take a step back here.

    The story is based on a simple fact and nothing more.

    I never got into the REASONS behind the fact, but almost any of the links would reveal the reasons for the fact and it has little to do with men being the most expensive.

    The reason is women generally trend toward education, health care, and government — two sectors that haven’t been as hard hit by the recession.

    The worst hit sectors have been housing and manufacturing. Two areas that are primarily men.

  • George Hayduke

    Meanwhile we have hundreds of Andersen Windows workers taking VOLUNTARY layoffs every year for 2-3 months and traveling around the world while the unemployment checks pile up at home. Same goes for many highly-paid construction workers and their companies’ owners. And they wonder why the state’s unemployment compensation fund is going to be in the red.

  • kennedy

    According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics…

    As of January 2009, there were about

    8 million unemployed men and

    5 million unemployed women.

    According to the law of supply and demand, women should earn more than men.

  • Bob Collins

    //Meanwhile we have hundreds of Andersen Windows workers taking VOLUNTARY layoffs every year for 2-3 months and traveling around the world while the unemployment checks pile up at home.

    Say what?

  • Andy’s Worker

    Call Andersen’s and ask them how many of those currently laid off volunteered to be laid off and have been guaranteed to return to work. Andersen’s has been doing this for years. They ramp up production in the summer, then offer voluntary layoffs to their workers in the winter. The net result: Andersen’s lets the state pick up part of their payroll tab for a couple months every year. Volunteer layoffs are guaranteed to be hired back. I have many friends who have been doing this for years–taking a voluntary layoff, collecting unemployment and then traveling around the world on exotic vacations while the taxpayers pick up their salary.

    Nice work if you can get it.

  • Bob Collins

    // The net result: Andersen’s lets the state pick up part of their payroll tab for a couple months every year

    Why would that make sense since the unemployment insurance trust fund is money that employers pay into it based on the number of claims from their companies?

  • George Hayduke

    If the unemployment fund is made up of money paid by employers like you say, it should then be self-sustaining right? So why is it going to be millions of dollars in the red? Sorry, Bob, that doesn’t compute. Employers don’t pay in 100% of what their employees draw out of the fund. Andersen’s is running a scam just like the owners of construction business who collect their full year’s income during the construction season and then collect unemployment all winter. Why are business owners allowed to collect unemployment?

  • Bob Collins

    George, you can find information here

  • Minerva

    Women, Valentine’s Day is approaching. Love yourself and toss out that leech of a home companion, that would include a househusband, that does doesn’t carry at least half of his load financially and in the work he does at home. We went to school. We learned to read. We learned to calculate. We learned to sit and pay attention. We are moving forward; they aren’t. We won’t let them will we? They will make good lawn boys and grease monkeys. Then go treat yourself to a spa or vigorous winter retreat. It is your life.

  • George Hayduke

    Bob, that article syas if MN runs out of UI money, they borrow from the feds, and if the fed fund runs out, they borrow from the national treasury. Later in the article, it says a surcharge could be put on all employers to make up the UI deficit. And it says corporate UI tax rates “could” go up. There’s nothing in there that says corporate UI taxes maintain 100% of the state and federal UI funds. This is a complex story that the public should know about. And what about construction company owners who collect UI?

    (from the article you cite):

    The federal unemployment trust fund is running out of money, too, and even faster now that benefits have been extended. Nelson said that if the federal fund runs out of money, it will borrow from the national treasury, as it did in the mid-1980s.

    The commissioner, the Governor’s office, and the state legislature will ultimately have to decide whether more action is needed than using Federal funds until the unemployment rate drops.

    State Representative Tom Rukavina, who chairs the Minnesota House Higher Education and Work Force Development Policy and Finance Division, said he is waiting to see DEED’s estimates in the next couple of weeks before making a decision. “That fund is in a lot of trouble I guess,” Rukavina said.

    One possible option would be to put the state credit on the line in a state bond issue. Nelson said that is not a good idea because although the interest rate might be slightly better, the state has to be the guarantor of the bond.

    The state could also adjust employer taxes to help offset the costs of unemployment benefits, either through simple surcharges or through changes in the rate structures. A surcharge would increase all employers’ taxes. A change in rate structures could impose higher taxes on those companies that have more frequent layoffs.

    Whether there will be an adjustment in taxes is still yet to be determined. Nelson said that it is very unlikely that there will be any cuts in benefits. “”There’s no interest in balancing things on the backs of the unemployed,” Nelson said.

  • Chad

    I started reading this thread– suprised to see the high number of women commenting. (Nikki has it right imo). Then I noticed George hyjacking the thread. Symbolic?

    I also think the disproportionate chunk of men laid off has something to do with how women are entering fields that require more education, etc, while men generally find identity in “hands-On’ jobs– where they’re more likely to be laid off.

    So now man = muscle has become a different type of social justice issue– boyond its impact on women– to how that conception hurts men too.

    This is a tragedy for all.

  • Brenda Squire

    Well, whatever! My husband has lost NUMEROUS jobs to young women – fresh out of college- with little corporate experience – and for HIGHER, yep, I said it – HIGHER pay. They’re usually hired by, yet, ANOTHER young female with a “head trip”. I know there are those women who must work for their families sake – but in Oklahoma Oil Corporations – and maybe those in other states – the middle aged man, with at least 15 years of good work left in him, are being phased out for the little chickie poos. If you don’t like it -TOUGH!!!!

    I’m a wife of 36 yrs and have had to see my precious husband crapped on numerous times. We’re both so tired of it – and are seriously thinking of just throwing in the towel, selling off our assets and living off the government.