A Publication of WTVP

The Great Recession accelerated a profound economic shift that has been going on for years. For the first time in American history, women make up half of the total U.S. workforce (49.9%). In addition, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women now hold 51.4 percent of managerial and professional jobs. In 1980, women held only 26.1 percent of these jobs.

Although increases in the number of women in the workforce are not a new phenomenon, with the loss of millions of jobs during the recession that were primarily held by men, women made unprecedented gains in the total percentage of the workforce. During the recession, 4.75 million (74%) of the 6.4 million jobs lost were lost by men. Men lost more than three million jobs in construction and manufacturing alone. Today, approximately one in five males between the ages of 18 and 64 is not working, compared to one in 20 in 1950.

During poor economic times, men have always experienced the greatest job losses because jobs that employ more males, such as manufacturing and construction, are adversely impacted during economic downturns. Women tend to work primarily in service industries like healthcare and education, which tend to be more recession-proof. Although some of the jobs lost by men will return, the projections for job growth in the next decade are predicted to be in service industries such as nursing, child care and home health assistance, which are currently dominated by women. In fact, only one of the top 10 occupations projected to grow the most in the next decade is currently dominated by males (accountant).

The future of job growth in the U.S. is one in which more and more workers will require postsecondary education or training. Women are outpacing men in postsecondary education credentials. For every two men that earn a college degree this year, three women will do the same. Currently, 59 percent of all bachelor’s degrees are earned by women. According to the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, women now earn 60 percent of master’s degrees, nearly 50 percent of all medical and law degrees, and over 40 percent of all MBAs.

Time will tell if women will continue to hold half of all of the jobs in the U.S. Unemployment among men will not last forever. As the economy recovers and more unemployed men begin to find jobs, it’s likely that males will again make up the majority of workers. But looking at industries that have been hit hard by layoffs, it appears that many men will be forced to completely change careers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects service-providing industries, including professional, scientific and technical services to generate approximately 14.5 million new wage and salary jobs by 2018. The shift in the U.S. economy away from producing goods to providing services will require new skill sets and competencies. In order to compete for jobs in these growth sectors, additional training will be required. iBi