Facts about Women’s Job Losses

The Romney Presidential campaign has correctly observed that men’s job losses tended to occur earlier in the 2008-2009 recession while women have lost more jobs than men since January 2009. The employment of women in the private sector fell by about 252,000 from January/February 2009 to January/February 2012 (BLS establishment survey). There are, however, substantial differences in the magnitude of job losses and gains by industry. For example, women’s employment in the health care industry increased by almost one half million and by 224,000 in temporary help agencies. In all other private sector industries women’s employment fell by 975,000 over the past three years.

Private Sector Job Losses Highest in Retail Trade

The following table presents information on selected private sector industries where women’s employment has fallen disproportionately over the past three years.

Selected Private Sector Industries with Substantial Declines in Women’s Employment January/February 2009 to January/February 2012


Employment Change

% Change in Employment

Retail Trade









Real Estate



Apparel Manufacturing



Air Transportation



Some of the jobs lost by women in the past three years, such as those in real estate, retail trade and air transportation are likely to return as the economy recovers. The steep percentage declines in employment in industries adversely affected by international trade and technological change are less likely to be reversed in an economic recovery.

Going Postal

The BLS data also indicates that women’s employment in the public sector declined by about 448,000 over the past three years. The following table shows that while there were small declines in state government and a modest increase in most of the federal sector, women’s employment at the U.S. Postal Service dropped sharply, by almost 35%, in just three years. Over 96% of the jobs lost at the USPS were held by women; while almost 35% of all women at the USPS lost their jobs the employment of men fell by less than 1% in the past three years.

Declines in Women’s Employment in the Public Sector

January/February 2009 to January/February 2012


Employment Change

% Change in Employment

U.S. Postal Service



All Other Federal Government



State Government



Local Government Education



Other Local Government



Much of the decline in public sector employment has been at the local government level. Women’s employment in public education fell by about 204,000 over three years, but this was a smaller percentage decline than in the rest of local government.


Women have lost more jobs than men over the past three years despite the fact that almost 80% of health care workers are women and almost half a million health care jobs for women were added over the past three years. Women have lost over 200,000 jobs in public education, but job cuts in local government have been larger (in percentage terms) outside of education where the majority of workers are men. In the past three years women have lost jobs disproportionately in retail trade, where men’s employment increased by a quarter million, and in telecommunications, publishing and real estate. The biggest gender gap in job losses, by far, is at the U.S. Postal Service where over 96% of job losses were suffered by women.

Technical Note: Employment figures compare the average of seasonally unadjusted data in January and February 2012 to the corresponding average in January and February of 2009.

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