Ohio working women fared better than men during the recession

Last week, the Associated Press examined employment trends since the recession and found that nationally, women have regained the jobs they lost during the Great Recession. Over 68 million women are currently employed, back above the 67.97 million women with jobs before the start of the recession in December, 2007. Men, by contrast, still have 2.1 million jobs to go.

We were intrigued to see if the same trends were evident in Ohio.

As monthly data at the state level does not tally employment by gender, we looked at full year data from 2007, 2009, and 2012; 2007 representing the period before the recession, 2009 representing the peak year of the recession, and 2012 being the most recent available data.

Unlike their national peers, Ohio women (and men) have a long way to go toward employment at pre-recession levels. In 2012, 2.5 million women in Ohio were employed compared to 2.7 million before the downturn. Given the slow growth in job creation displayed this past year, it’s unlikely we’ll return to pre-recession employment levels when data for 2013 becomes available.

Interestingly, Ohio’s working women fared better in the recession than their male counterparts. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the share of Ohio’s workforce made up by women actually increased from 47.5% in 2007 to 49% in 2009 as the economy hit its low point. In 2012, those numbers returned to pre-recession levels (47.4%). This phenomenon appears to be tied to more men losing their jobs during the downturn. Data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services shows that women filed fewer initial claims for unemployment compensation in 2009 – just 31.4% of all claims filed, representing a decrease from 34.7% in 2007. In 2012, women’s share of unemployment claims bounced back to pre-recession levels (35.1%).

Ohio Women Employment
During the recession, Ohio women grew as a share of the workforce and experienced lower unemployment than men.

Why did women make up a greater share of the recessionary workforce and make fewer unemployment claims than their male counterparts? Women are employed in greater numbers in what can be labeled “recession-proof” industries. In all three years we examined, the top three industries for female workers in Ohio are: education and health services, wholesale and retail trade, and leisure and hospitality. According to the Associated Press, “Since June 2009, one of the largest gains occurred in a measure of education and health-service jobs.” By contrast, sectors like manufacturing and construction, which employ a greater share of men, saw some of the largest employment decreases.

With women continuing to work in these growing industries, it will be interesting to see how the face of Ohio’s workforce changes in the coming years.