What to make of the historically low unemployment rate
Visual Exploration of Unemployment Data

Men and women faced different experiences in the labor market

Last week, I showed how the aggregate statistics, unemployment rate, masked some unusual trends in the labor market in the U.S. Despite the unemployment rate in 2018 being equal, and even a little below, that in 2000, the peak of the last tech boom, there are now significantly more people "not in the labor force," and these people are not counted in the unemployment rate statistic.

The analysis focuses on two factors that are not visible in the unemployment rate aggregate: the proportion of people considered not in labor force, and the proportion of employees who have part-time positions. The analysis itself masks a difference across genders.

It turns out that men and women had very different experiences in the labor market.

For men, things have looked progressively worse with each recession and recovery since 1990. After each recovery, more men exit the labor force, and more men become part-timers. The Great Recession, however, hit men even worse than previous recessions, as seen below:


For women, it's a story of impressive gains in the 1990s, and a sad reversal since 2008.


P.S. See here for Part 1 of this series. In particular, the color scheme is explained there. Also, the entire collection can be viewed here


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This likely reflects the different type of work that traditionally men and women do. Men are more likely to work in manufacturing which tends to be full-time work, while women are more likely to work in services which is part time. As manufacturing is in decline it tends not to expand again after a recession.

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