“Mancession” Threatens American Dream

It's a question that riles soldiers on the front lines of the gender wars: Has the economic recession hit men disproportionately to women?

University of Michigan economist Mark Perry says yes, and coined the term, "mancession" as the economic plunge gained momentum. He says that while the recession is a "downturn" for women, it is a "catastrophe" for men.

Some statistics bear that out. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, when the labor market deteriorated in 2009, men felt the brunt of it. Some 3.1 million jobs held by men were lost last year compared to only 1.6 million jobs for women.

Simply put, manufacturing, smokestack, and manual labor jobs are still largely the domain of males, while the "softer" service sector jobs -- like those in education, health or retail -- are more populated by females.

Christina Hoff Sommers of the American Enterprise Institute, who penned controversial books called "The War Against Boys" and "Who Stole Feminism," suggests that there was political motivation behind some of the job losses in traditionally male-dominated fields. She wrote in The Weekly Standard last February that feminist groups pressured the Obama administration to deflect money for "shovel ready" jobs into the softer sectors.

"Christina Romer, the highly regarded economist President Obama chose to chair his Council of Economic Advisers," Hoff Sommers writes, "would later say of her entrance on the political stage, ‘The very first email I got . . . was from a women's group saying We don't want this stimulus package to just create jobs for burly men.' "

"No matter that those burly men were the ones who had lost most of the jobs," Hoff Sommers chided.

Others suggest the concept of a "mancession" is simply overblown -- if not short lived. Writing in the liberal Huffington Post, Bryce Covert points out that a U.S. Conference of Mayors study found, "half of the projected new green jobs will be in heavily male dominated areas, such as engineering, consulting, manufacturing, construction and forestry."

And there's proof that what was lost in the male-dominated sectors, may be regained, at least partially. Of the 50,000 jobs added to private payrolls in November, a net 34,000 new jobs were gained by men, while the number of jobs gained by women was 16,000.

But what if some of Hoff Sommers' "burly men "actually can't get their jobs back? Many such jobs have been lost to automation, technology, exportation or a combination.

But former Bush administration Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao says the key to job recovery - male or female -- is to unleash the private sector from regulation.

"The deluge of harassment and heavy handed regulations that are gushing out of Washington has had a deadening effect on job creation."