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Unemployment & the Economy

About Unemployment & the Economy

IWPR publishes occasional analyses of the impact of the business cycle on women’s employment outcomes. Between December 2007 and June 2009, the U.S. economy was in the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Because much of the slowdown has occurred in traditionally male fields such as manufacturing and construction—while a few traditionally female fields such as health and education have shown job growth or minimal job loss—many reports have focused on the job losses among men in the labor force. IWPR highlighted that:

    • Substantial job losses occurred among women in such sectors as retail, hospitality, and personal and business services. Women lost about 2 million jobs between December 2007 and June 2009 and unemployment was 8.4 percent of women aged 16 and over as of November 2010.
    • Once they lose their jobs, women and men spend a similar number of weeks unemployed; in December 2009, unemployed women and men had been out of work for an astounding 29 weeks, on average.
    • A smaller share of unemployed women collect unemployment insurance benefits compared with unemployed men. Between December 2007 and November 2009, 36.8 percent of unemployed women received unemployment benefits, on average, compared with 40.3 percent of unemployed men.

In the recovery women regained all the jobs they lost in the recession more quickly than men regained their lost jobs.


      Women and Men in the Recovery: Where the Jobs Are ; Women’s Recover Jobs Lost in Recession in Year Five | Briefing Paper (October 2014)

      Women's and Men's Employment and Unemployment in the Great Recession | Briefing Paper

      Visit our external resources page for more information on this topic.

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      Latest Reports from IWPR

      Preview not available

      The Impact of the Current Economic Downturn on Women
      by Heidi Hartmann (June 2008)

      Testimony presented to the Joint Economic Committee At the hearing: “The Employment Situation: May 2008” June 6, 2008


      Women at Greater Risk of Economic Insecurity: A Gender Analysis of the Rockefeller Foundation’s American Worker Survey
      by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D., Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D., Claudia Williams (April 2008)

      In February 2007, at the request of the Rockefeller Foundation, the consulting firm Yankelovich fielded a survey to explore Americans’ sense of economic insecurity. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research analyzed the survey data to explore impacts based on gender, racial and ethnic identity, education, employment status, and other important demographic characteristics. This report highlights IWPR’s findings.

      #D482, report, 27 pages
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      The Unemployment Modernization Act: Improving UI Equity and Adequacy for Women
      by Vicky Lovell (September 2007)

      Preview not available

      Women and the Economy: Recent Trends in Job Loss, Labor Force Participation, and Wages
      by Heidi Hartmann, Vicky Lovell and Misha Werschkul (September 2004)

      In the months since the official end of the recession in November 2001, women’s employment has returned to pre-recession levels, but the lack of job growth in this period means millions of jobs for women are missing. At the same time, the long-term increase in women’s labor force participation has stalled, and the gender wage gap has increased.

      #B245, 6 pages

      Florida’s Unemployment Insurance System: Barriers to Program Adequacy for Women, Low-Wage and Part-Time Workers, and Workers of Color, Executive Summary
      by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. and Maurice Emsellem, Esq. (March 2004)

      (Written collaboratively by Vicky Lovell, PhD, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, and Maurice Emsellem, Esq., National Employment Law Project) The Florida unemployment insurance (UI) system is not meeting its basic goal of providing a modest measure of income support to temporarily unemployed workers. This is due in significant part to the UI system’s failure to keep pace with fundamental changes in the labor market, including the growth of low-wage and parttime work and the vastly expanding role of women in the labor market. This situation exists despite the significant reserves in Florida’s UI trust fund, even during the current economic downturn, and record-level UI tax cuts.

      #C356, 2 pages

      40-hour Work Proposal Significantly Raises Mothers’ Employment Standard
      by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (May 2003)

      #D460, Research-in-Brief, 8 pages
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      The Georgia Unemployment Insurance System: Overcoming Barrieres for Low-Wage, Part-Time, and Women Workers
      by Maurice Emsellem, Vicky Lovell (December 2002)

      This report uses national and state survey data to analyze the low coverage rate of the Georgia UI system for all workers in Georgia, but especially for low-wage, part-time, and women workers. Also examines tax rates and Georgia's trust fund balances. Co-published by the National Employment Law Project and IWPR.


      Job Training and Education Fight Poverty
      by M. K. Tally (March 2002)

      The current federal welfare law limits the availability of education and training programs. The reauthorization of the federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Block Grant offers an opportunity to make job training and education a central focus of welfare. This Fact Sheet is a synthesis of the data about benefits of these programs and makes recommendations on incorporating them into the current law.

      Preview not available

      Today's Women Workers: Shut Out of Yesterday's Unemployment Insurance System
      by IWPR (May 2001)

      A look at the unequal distribution of unemployment insurance and flaws in the system that prevent women from receiving earned benefits.


      Today’s Women Workers: Shut Out of Yesterday’s Unemployment Insurance System
      by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D., and Catherine Hill, Ph.D. (April 2001)

      This Fact Sheet discusses two aspects of the UI system that prevent many women from receiving the UI benefits they have earned: (1) monetary eligibility criteria, and (2) the exclusion of part-time workers. It also reviews other barriers to UI receipt and policy changes that would extend support of this fundamental employment-based program to more working women.


      Unemployment Insurance and Welfare Reform: Fair Access to Economic Supports for Low-Income Working Women
      by Annisah Um'rani, Vicky Lovell (December 2000)

      Discusses how unequal access to unemployment insurance (UI)specifically affects welfare recipients. Emphasizesthe vital role of UI in preventing excessive hardship among welfare recipients due to unstable jobs.


      UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE AND WELFARE REFORM: Fair Access to Economic Supports for Low-Income Working Women
      by Annisah Um’rani, Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (November 2000)

      #A125, Research-in-Brief, 8 pages

      The Georgia Unemployment Insurance System: Overcoming Barriers For Low-Wage, Part-Time & Women Workers
      by Maurice Emsellem, Esq., Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (November 2000)


      Unemployment Insurance Reform for the New Workforce
      by Annisah Um’rani, Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (March 2000)

      Proceedings of the Strategy Forum for Improving Unemployment Insurance Policies to Benefit Women, Low-Wage and Contingent Workers, sponsored by IWPR and the National Employment Law Project.

      Preview not available

      Women and Unemployment Insurance
      by IWPR (November 1999)

      Explains how unemployment insurance (UI) works and discusses how women workers are often excluded from eligibility. Nationally only 23 percent of unemployed women receive UI.

      Preview not available

      The Texas Unemployment Insurance System
      by Maurice Emsellem, Katherine Allen, Lois Shaw (February 1999)

      Examines the problem of access to the Texas Unemployment Insurance program by documenting inequitable treatment of low-wage, part-time, women, and minority workers. Co-published by the National Employment Law Project and IWPR.

      Preview not available

      Demographic and Economic Trends: Implications for Family Life and Public Policy
      by Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D (December 1998)

      Preview not available

      Unemployment Insurance: Barriers to Access for Women and Part-time Workers
      by Young-Hee Yoon, Roberta Spalter-Roth, and Marc Baldwin (June 1995)

      This fact sheet is based on the report titled "Unemployment Insurance: Barriers to Access for Women and Part Time Workers."

      Preview not available

      Supporting Work: The Relation Between Employment Opportunities and Financial and Other Support Programs
      by Roberta Spalter-Roth, Beverly Burr (August 1993)

      Testimony before the Working Group on Welfare Reform, Family Support and Independence. Describes employment patterns of single mothers with a history of AFDC receipt. Argues that to implement a time-limited welfare reform plan, eligibility and benefit levels for the Earned Income Tax Credit and Unemployment Insurance must be expanded.

      Preview not available

      Improving Employment Opportunities for Women
      by Heidi Hartmann, Roberta Spalter-Roth (February 1991)

      Testimony on H.R. 1 Civil Rights Act of 1991, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor. Describes the importance of women's earnings for family survival, the continued existence of wage and job discrimination, and the effectiveness of civil rights and anti-discrimination policies. Argues that ensuring equal employment opportunities for all workers is needed to strengthen the economy.

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