As unemployment rises, the US is on the verge of a surprising milestone: for the first time, more women than men will be on the nation's payrolls. As the New York Times reports, 82% of the people who have lost their jobs in the recession are men, who have substantial majorities in troubled industries like manufacturing. Sectors such as health and education, where women work in greater numbers, have been more stable.
In past recessions, the percentage of families supported by women has tended to go up. But women continue to earn only 80 cents for each dollar their male counterparts make; moreover, women tend to work fewer hours, often in part-time jobs with few benefits. "A lot of jobs that men have lost in fields like manufacturing were good union jobs with great health care plans," said one employment lawyer. "The jobs women have—and are supporting their families with—are not necessarily as good."