Is it time for a “Men Studies” curriculum?

Posted: May 12, 2008 in Economy, The Brothas

The Slump: It’s a Guy Thing

by Peter Coy

Businessweek.com

Men, concentrated in the weakest sectors, are losing jobs in this downturn, while women make gains

They eat from the same dishes and sleep in the same beds, but they seem to be operating in two different economies. From last November through this April, American women aged 20 and up gained nearly 300,000 jobs, according to the household survey of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). At the same time, American men lost nearly 700,000 jobs. You might even say American men are in recession, and American women are not.

What’s going on? Simply put, men have the misfortune of being concentrated in the two sectors that are doing the worst: manufacturing and construction. Women are concentrated in sectors that are still growing, such as education and health care.

This situation is hardly good news for women, though. While they’re getting more jobs, their pay is stagnant. Also, most share households—and bills—with the men who are losing jobs. And the “female” economy can’t stay strong for long if the “male” economy weakens too much.

The troubles for the American male worker, while exacerbated by the current slump, are hardly new. The manufacturing sector is in long-term decline, and construction goes through repeated booms and busts. Meanwhile women are graduating from college at higher rates than men. Some analysts even argue that men are less suited than women to the knowledge economy, which rewards supposedly female traits such as sensitivity, intuition, and a willingness to collaborate. “Men have tended to do better in the hierarchies, following orders and relying on positional power,” says Andy Hines, a futurist at the Washington (D.C.) consulting firm Social Technologies, who previously worked for Kellogg and Dow Chemical.

Problem Industries

Whether you buy that argument or not, it’s clear that right now men are in a bad spot. The share of all men aged 20 and over with jobs has fallen since last November, when private-sector employment peaked, going from 72.9% to 72.2% in April. For women the ratio rose, from 58.1% to 58.3%. The adult male unemployment rate has risen twice as much as the female jobless rate since November. Those figures from the BLS’ household survey are echoed in its separate survey of employers.

To see why, go sector by sector. Manufacturing is over 70% male and construction is about 88% male. Meanwhile the growing education and health services sector is 77% female. The government sector, which has remained strong, is 57% female. The securities business, which is filled with high-paying jobs, is likely to be the next sector to get whacked—and more than 60% of its workers are men. (more…)

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