While the recession hit black men harder than any other group, the economic recovery has shifted that impact to their female counterparts, according to a recent report by the National Women's Law Center [www.nwlc.org], which shows that black women have lately seen their unemployment rate rise even as other populations—including black men—have finally begun to regain jobs.
Between June 2009 and June 2011, black men gained 127,000 jobs while black women lost more than twice that number, 258,000, the report says. That means that black women have now lost more total jobs than have black men since the recession began in December 2007.
"We hear back from women suggesting that some employers think it's more important for men to get back to work than for women," said Joan Entmacher, the National Women's Law Center's vice president for family economic security, citing anecdotes from women she has interviewed. "I suspect that is one of the things at work."
But on the contrary, the report suggests that women are more critical to the economic health of the black population.
“Black women are a majority [53.4%] of the black workforce, head a majority [52.8%] of black families with children, and were more economically vulnerable even before the recession started,” according to the report.
When Mayor Michael Bloomberg earlier this month introduced his “Young Men's Initiative” program—which will spend $127.5 million to improve education, job placement, health and criminal justice outcomes for young black and Hispanic men—many cheered the effort. But some advocates lament the failure to address women's economic struggles.
“It's really important that we pay attention to what's going on with black men and black male teens and the barriers they face for employment,” said Kate Gallagher Robbins, an analyst at the National Women's Law Center.

“But it's also critical that we focus on what's happening for black women and black teen girls.”

In fact, women of all races are suffering disproportionately during the weak recovery, as public sector jobs shrink under the chokehold of tightened budgets. Women hold a high percentage of those jobs, largely because local governments were the first places to implement fair employment practices, said Jeff Hayes, senior research associate at the Institute for Women's Policy Research.
“That's the first place they found good jobs and careers, because there were routinized rules for hiring,” Mr. Hayes said.
With debt deal cuts on the horizon that will further limit public-sector spending, black women and teens aren't likely to see relief soon.
“Certainly the cuts that have been happening in the government and the public sector are not helpful to these women,” said Ms. Gallagher Robbins. Instead, budget plans should focus on job creation, she said, for example through investments in infrastructure and tax credits for businesses who hire new employees.
“With no assistance to state and local governments, and no talk of any stimulus, it's looking pretty gloomy—especially for black women,” said Mr. Hayes.

Employment Crisis Worsens for Black Women during the Recovery

While total job growth has been weak since the recession officially ended in June 2009, women actually lost jobs and their unemployment rate increased during the first two years of the recovery (June 2009 to June 2011), while men gained jobs and their unemployment rate declined.[1]
The first two years of the recovery have been especially grim for black women, who have suffered disproportionate job losses and larger increases in unemployment than other groups.  These trends are especially troubling because black women are a majority (53.4 percent) of the black workforce, head a majority (52.8 percent) of black families with children,[2] and were more economically vulnerable even before the recession started.
While the recession hit black men particularly hard, during the first two years of the recovery black men gained back jobs, while black women continued to lose jobs.  Indeed, since the start of the recession in December 2007 through June 2011, black women lost more jobs than did black menUnemployment rose more sharply for black women than black men during the recovery, although it remained higher for black men than black women.

Black women lost over twice as many jobs as black men gained during the first two years of the recovery.

  • Between June 2009 and June 2011, black women lost 258,000 jobs while black men gained 127,000 jobs.

Black women have lost more jobs than black men since the beginning of the recession.  

  • During the recession – from December 2007 to June 2009 – black men suffered the majority of job losses among black workers.  However, because black women continued to lose jobs after the recession officially ended, while black men regained jobs, black women lost more jobs (491,000) than black men (477,000) between December 2007 and June 2011.

Black women lost jobs disproportionately compared to women overall during the recovery.

  • Black women represented 1 in 8 (12.5 percent) of all women workers in June 2009.  But between June 2009 and June 2011, black women accounted for more than 4 in every 10 jobs (42.2 percent) lost by women overall.

Black women lost more jobs during the recovery than they did during the recession.

  • Black women lost more jobs during the recovery (258,000) than they did during the recession (233,000); women overall lost slightly more than half as many jobs during the recovery (612,000) as they did during the recession (1,199,000). 

Black women’s unemployment rate rose more than other groups’ in the recovery.

  • Black women’s unemployment rate rose 2.1 percentage points between June 2009 and June 2011, compared to an increase of 0.7 percentage points among black men.  Unemployment also rose during the recovery by 0.3 percentage points among women overall and among white women by 0.2 percentage points. Some groups experienced a decrease in unemployment during the recovery, including men overall by 0.8 percentage points, and among white men, Hispanic men, Asian men, Hispanic women, and Asian women.

Change in Unemployment Rates
during the Recovery

June 2009
June 2011
Percentage Point Change
in the Recovery
All women
All men
Black women
Black men
White women
White men
Asian women
Asian men
Hispanic women
Hispanic men
Source: Current Population Survey


Unemployment remains painfully high overall and for some vulnerable groups, including women generally and black women in particular, the employment picture has gotten worse in the two years since the recession ended.  Policy makers must address the jobs crisis facing women and men.

Technical note:
NWLC’s earlier report, “Second Anniversary of the Recovery Shows No Job Growth for Women,” which tracked job changes for women and men from June 2009 to June 2011, shows different totals for job losses than does this analysis.  The analyses differ because examinations of job loss or growth by race require the use of a different data source.  The “Second Anniversary” report uses data from the Current Employment Statistics (CES), a survey of employers.  CES, the primary survey used to track job change in the United States, provides information regarding the gender of job holders.  However, data regarding job change among different racial groups and data regarding unemployment are not available from CES.  This analysis of black women’s unemployment and job loss in the recovery instead uses data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), a household survey.  Job figures reported in CPS differ from those reported by CES because CPS includes individuals who work in jobs not surveyed by the CES such as the self-employed, farm workers, unpaid family workers and domestic workers.
The source of the data for this analysis is NWLC calculations from U.S. Dep’t of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey, Tables A-1, A-2 and A-3 available at http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsatabs.htm and CPS database, available at http://data.bls.gov/pdq/querytool.jsp?survey=ln (last visited Aug. 3, 2011).  All figures are for individuals 20 years and older.  Data for Hispanics and Asians are not seasonally adjusted.

[1] National Women’s Law Center, “Second Anniversary of the Recovery Shows no Job Growth for Women” (July 2011), available at http://www.nwlc.org/resource/second-anniversary-recovery-shows-no-job-gr...
[2] NWLC calculations from U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, 2010 Annual Social and Economic Supplement, Table POV-07: Families With Related Children Under 18 by Number of Working Family Members and Family Structure: 2009, available at http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/cpstables/032010/pov/toc.htm (last visited Aug. 3, 2011).