Why Men Will Continue to Dominate the Jobs Recovery

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Men might have lost more jobs during the recession than women did — but a new report shows that it’s women who are struggling more in the financial recovery.

First the facts: Everyone knows that men — and male-dominated fields — were hit hard in the 2008 financial collapse. Their job losses wildly outpaced women’s. Wall Street got slammed. Construction, if you’ll pardon the pun, was hammered. Factory workers and pilots — what do they have in common? Their workers saw massive layoffs; and most of those workers were men.

But something changed between disaster and salvation. We saw more job creation — but those jobs (by a disproportionate margin) were going to men. A think tank report from January showed that men were finding more jobs than women in all but one career field (state government).

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And now, a new Pew Research Center report shows that men have gathered up around four times more jobs than women since the recession hit. The recession might have been a “men’s recession,” but the recovery is undoubtedly a men’s recovery. And over-correction doesn’t even begin to cover it.

So why is this happening? It’s not as though Wall Street is on some hiring bonanza. And while construction jobs are on the rise, the sector isn’t a runaway success. Many areas that men traditionally rely on for employment aren’t performing.

What’s the key? Jobs in office and administrative support. It’s not an occupation many might suspect when analyzing gender and jobs. But men are snapping up those jobs at lighting-fast speed. And they’re smart to do so.

As a July 2011 paper from the Roosevelt Institute pointed out, women lost nearly one million jobs in that professional category since the economic instability first hit. Men, meanwhile, gained 204,000 jobs in that field.

Okay, so, on the surface that doesn’t seem like a lot. And it’s not. But when you consider that career category’s outlook, the trend tips heavily in men’s favor. Turns out, the conventional office gig is a not-so-conventional way to outsmart the rocky economy.

It’s not immediately clear why men are making these gains. Roosevelt suggested that this may have to do with consolidating work staffs around the country. With more so-called “lower level” employees getting the axe, upper level staffers pick up the slack (and it should come as news to no one that, in many business environments, men tend to dominate the senior spots). But this only explains why women have lost out in these jobs — not why men are taking on more of them. Of course, as the existing office jobs grow more demanding, many women are forced out of those roles. As we’ve noted before, the burdens working women face often outweigh the men’s.

(MORE: Jobs Numbers and the Economics of Emotion)

And this is lucky for the guys.

Office and administrative support jobs are at the top of the heap when it comes to the fastest-growing occupations in the U.S., according to a BizJournal analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Office jobs are growing fast, according to federal analysis, and they don’t show any sign of slowing down in the next decade or so. Upwards of 2.3 million more jobs will exist in that sector by 2020, a greater improvement than any other occupational group tracked.

Circling back to the Roosevelt Institute’s report, here are some ramifications for this trend:

Women have lost an overwhelming number of jobs in “office and administrative support occupations”… While there may be long-term shift taking place in the kind of work these positions will entail, in the short-term much more robust job creation is needed to help women maintain their support jobs.

In short: Men are winning — and they’re winning in the fastest-growing occupation. And if things stay as they are, they’ll continue to do so.

Amy Tennery is the Managing Editor of The Jane Dough, where this post originally appeared. Tennery previously edited business news site Mogulite and was a reporter for The Real Deal, a New York City real estate trade publication. Her work has also appeared in the Washington Post, Slate and other publications.

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