Mitt Romney’s having a terrible time turning the tables on Democrats. But his camp’s claim that President Obama is the one waging the “real war on women” is best debunked visually.
With thanks to economist Justin Wolfers for the idea, the below graphs compare male and female employment metrics. The former, charting percent change in total monthly payrolls, shows what economists have known for quite some time. Male-dominated industries took a hard, early hit during the recession. As those industries rebound, more jobs are going to men than to women. Conversely, women lost a huge number of jobs in states and municipalities as a result of teacher layoffs — a hemorrhaging that could have been stanched by Obama-proposed legislation to spur teacher hiring, which the GOP blocked.
At a White House briefing on women and the economy last week, a senior administration official grappled with this issue.
You look at the unemployment rates right now, for women it’s 8.2 percent, for men it’s 8.3, so they’re in similar position in terms of the economic recovery. Initially, as you said, it was disproportionately men losing their jobs, even more than a normal recession because of the implosion of the construction sector. And then in the first phase, the recovery started first for men before it did for women. So for a while when we were very strongly lagging in terms of job growth, that started to turn around in the last six months to a year with women starting to catch up to the type of job growth men are having. If you look at places like the Institute for Women’s Policy Research … ringing the warning bells on jobless recovery for women, their most recent reports have been much more positive about how it took a little bit longer but women are coming back in terms of jobs. But certainly we don’t fully understand the timing and that pattern. That’s why we’re continuing to push for things like teacher jobs, which is a lot of the job loss has been state and local — private jobs are adding jobs, state and local are still losing them. They’re losing them at a somewhat slower rate, but they’re still losing them and that disproportionately affects women.
Nevertheless, male employment and female employment have nearly returned to the levels they were at when Obama took office. And if Obama is waging a war on women, he’s doing a poor job of it. Despite these setbacks, female labor force participation remains near its historic high.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.