Between 1989 and 1992 during the savings and loans crisis in the United States – a recession very similar to our own in terms of causes – women were unemployed more than men. Disabled women were unemployed about 9.6% more than disabled men. Here is the data.

Today the picture is dramatically different. More women today are holding onto their jobs, while men are losing them. For men, the unemployment rate is 8.1%, for women, 6.7%. The numbers for the disabled men and women are far more disparate. Among men with disabilities, the rate was 17% last month. Among women, 12.1%. (BLS statistics).

Just about year ago, a Senate committee called the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (headed by Senator Edward Kennedy) stated in a report (Taking a Toll: The Effects of Recession on Women) that, “Early signs indicate that this recession is hitting women harder than men.” Women were expected to suffer more job losses and larger reductions in wages.

In fact, just the opposite is true.

And, apparently, it has been this way since 1969. A report in the Monthly Labor Review, in 1993, (Women and jobs in recessions: 1969 – 1992), found that in every recession since 1969 men were more unemployed than women. The common misconception that women lose jobs in a recession before men do, they say, is simply “not supported by the facts.” The reason is because

… the goods-producing industries have the greatest proportions of men and suffer the most in recessions, while certain service-sector industries which employ mainly women continue to grow during recessions.

In many industries women are even hired more during recessions. To use one of the authors’ example, the legal services industry continues to grow. In every recession except 1990-1992, the industry hired more women than men on a net-employment basis. The study does not say whose wages are higher, but it seems likely that women took lower-paying positions like paralegal work and secretary jobs, while men (though fewer in number) took higher-paying positions as attorneys and lawyers.

In 3 of the 5 recessions since 1964, when complete payroll statistics for women were first produced, women actually gained jobs on a net basis while total employment was substantially reduced.

So it turns out 1990-1992 was different from the general trend. But why, we should ask, are men not getting more attention for the unemployment numbers? Is there a reason why not too many people know that the statistics are favorable towards women, and why is there a lingering misconception that the statistics are the other way around?