Women are catching up with men in the race for jobs.
After trailing men through most of the jobs recovery since 2010, women this year are keeping pace, and their jobless rate has fallen more rapidly.
The economy added 175,000 jobs in May, with nearly half going to women, the Labor Department says. And while the unemployment rate for men 16 and over rose to 7.9 percent from 7.7 percent, the jobless rate for women fell to 7.1 percent from 7.3 percent.
The strides made by women are even more dramatic for all of 2013. This year, men have gained 475,000 jobs and women, 471,000. That's impressive because women make up only 47 percent of all employed Americans. Since December, their unemployment rate -- which is calculated from a different survey than the job totals -- has tumbled from 7.8 percent. The 7.9 percent male rate hasn't budged.
"We have seen the recovery picking up steam for women," says Joan Entmacher, vice president of the National Women's Law Center.
The trend could mark a new recovery chapter. From February 2010, when the job market hit bottom, until December 2012, men gained 3.5 million jobs, women, 1.8 million.
That's largely because men were hit harder than women by the loss of more than 4 million manufacturing and construction jobs in the 2007-09 recession. Men benefited as those industries recouped more than 800,000 jobs in the past three years.
At the same time, women were disproportionately hurt by the loss of 415,000 local government jobs from 2010 through 2012, including many administrative and teaching posts.
The male advantage began to shrink last year, with women accounting for 45 percent of the 2.2 million jobs added. Women hold a large share of jobs in sectors that have led the recovery, including health care, temporary workers, restaurants and retail. Women comprise nearly all of the 93,000 retail jobs added in 2013.
Also, local governments have started to add jobs after years of layoffs.
Meanwhile, the male-dominated manufacturing industry has shed jobs the past two months and factory employment has been flat in 2013 amid defense cutbacks and a eurozone recession. U.S. deficit-cutting is having an outsize effect on men as the U.S. Postal Service and defense firms trim payrolls. The housing rebound is fueling the male-populated construction field. "But it's not roaring back," as commercial and government building lag, says Moody's Analytics economist Mark Zandi.
While women are catching up, many gains are in low-wage jobs, such as cashiers and waitresses, Entmacher says. Many laid-off teachers, she notes, had to take fast-food jobs.
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