Schmudget Blog

Want to Improve Economic Recovery for Women? For Everyone? Invest in Education and Health

Posted by lorip at Feb 13, 2012 05:15 PM |

This post is part one of a three-part series highlighting the impact of budget cuts on women in Washington state.  

Budget cuts are undermining women’s employment in our state, hurting our overall recovery. More than 90 percent of budget cuts to date have occurred in education, health, and social services – areas that disproportionally employ women. 

Women make a significant contribution to the overall economy and their families’ economic security. Much of the rise in America’s prosperity during the latter half of the 20th century came from the majority of adult women entering the labor force. For families, this has created more financial security and greater social and economic opportunities, such as owning a home and sending children to college.

As we note in our new policy brief, Women, Work, and Washington’s Economy: How State Budget Cuts are Hurting all Three, of the government jobs in education, health, and social services (over half of all public sector jobs), women make up nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of the workforce.   Cuts to these areas are hurting women’s employment recovery and our overall economic progress. 

As the figure below illustrates, men’s unemployment skyrocketed starting in 2008 as male-dominated industries like construction and manufacturing became the first casualties of the recession.  Women’s unemployment also increased in the beginning, then declined, but shot up again at the end of 2010.

unemployment by sex

The difference in male and female patterns of unemployment is partially due to women’s greater likelihood of being employed in state and local government, especially in education, health, and social services. The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provided some funding for states to stabilize their budgets in the wake of the recession, initially stemming the tide of job loss in these fields and contributing to women’s lower rates of unemployment compared to men. But as that money ran out, revenues continued to decline, cuts ensued, and women’s unemployment escalated.

These job losses not only undermine women’s recovery, but our overall economic progress. While the private sector has been steadily gaining jobs, the shedding of public jobs has kept the overall unemployment rate stubbornly high (see figure).

public vs. private employment

For more information on the impact of the recession on women’s employment and what we can do about it, read the full brief.  Stay tuned this week for additional posts on the impact of cuts on women's economic security, safety, and health.


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