by Tom W. Pauken
Long-term trends in the labor market have been particularly brutal for men, but our Washington policymakers appear to be either unaware of such trends or to have ignored them for the most part. Over the past decade, the total number of jobs for women went up by close to a million. Meanwhile, men lost more than 3 million jobs. From 1960 to 2008, the average unemployment rate for men 25 years and older was 4.2 percent. In the last two years, it has more than doubled, shooting up to 8.9 percent. By contrast, unemployment for women of the same age and for the same period of time went from 4.7 percent to 7.2 percent, an increase of 52 percent. The disparity is more striking if one considers that women’s rate of participation in the workforce has risen sharply since 1960 while the percentage of men in the job market has been shrinking.
One reason that men’s employment rate lags behind is that there has been negative growth in the types of jobs men historically have occupied. In the last 10 years, 5.5 million manufacturing jobs were lost. That’s one-third of our manufacturing base in an industry where men make up 70 percent of the workforce. In construction, where 87 percent of positions are filled by men, more than 1.4 million jobs went away during that time frame. Approximately 4.4 million jobs have been added in the education and health care sectors, but women dominate this growing field, as they make up 77 percent of the work force.
It’s working class men, not those who occupy elite positions in finance and government, who are suffering.
The hemorrhaging of manufacturing and other well-paying jobs in America means that a rising number of young American men face dwindling prospects for earning a middle-class wage in the future. Young male unemployment is at 19 percent. More than 15 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans (most of whom are male) were unemployed in January 2011. African-American males also have been hit hard. Ten years ago, both African-American men and women had the same unemployment rate of 8.2 percent. Since then, the men’s rate has more than doubled and now is almost four points higher than the unemployment rate for women. Similarly, Hispanic men now have a 1.7 percent higher unemployment rate than Hispanic women, whom they historically have outperformed.
With growing numbers of out-of-work young men comes a volatile mix of negative social outcomes: they are less likely to marry, less likely to be a stable parental force for the children they father, and more likely to engage in violent behavior.
One would think that Washington policymakers would see these developments as a cause for concern. Nonetheless, for more than a decade, they have looked the other way as good American jobs have been shipped overseas, outsourced or have simply gone away. Ironically, our business tax system incentivizes our companies to export jobs and prosperity overseas. Also, our government welfare system all but discourages an intact family of a father and mother by the way it distributes money.