Sex is not the story here

It’s striking and societally significant, to be sure. But the shift away from male employment is still not the primary cause for concern.

The percentage of adult American women who are employed climbed from about 37% in 1965 to about 55% in 2008, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Bureau of Economic Research. We hear less concerning the percentage of adult American men who are employed, which fell from about 81% in 1965 to 69% in 2008. The share of men in the United States with a job is at its lowest point ever.

That long-term trend is now accelerating. Since the current recession began in December 2007, men have lost the vast majority of jobs. Of the 5.1 million jobs that have disappeared, a full 20% have been lost in construction, almost entirely by men. Another 20.6% of jobs have been lost in male-dominated manufacturing. Meanwhile, employment in the female-dominated fields of education and health services has increased by 12% since the recession began. In total, 78% of the jobs lost in this recession have been lost by men, according to BLS statistics compiled by Heather Boushey, a senior economist at the Center for American Progress. (Men comprised only about 54% of the workforce going into the recession.)