The story goes that the recession ended in June 2009, meaning that we have been in recovery for over two years. The reality for women has felt like anything but a recovery. NWLC research shows that while job growth has begun – albeit slowly, with only 639,000 jobs added between June 2009 and August 2011 – women have actually lost 345,000 jobs since the start of the recovery. Women’s unemployment has been on the rise (increasing from 7.7 percent in June 2009 to 8.0 percent in August 2011), and nearly half of all jobless women are among the long-term unemployed who have been seeking work for more than six months.
Recognizing some of these realities, the President included provisions to ensure that women share in the benefits of the job creation plan he unveiled last night.
The President’s plan includes targeted measures that can help struggling state and local governments avoid layoffs. This could prevent up to 280,000 teacher layoffs – layoffs that would disproportionately impact women. The President’s plan also includes funding to rebuild the nation’s physical infrastructure. While women are generally underrepresented in construction and infrastructure jobs, the plan includes specific funding for outreach and training to ensure that these jobs are available to women, communities of color, and the disadvantaged.
Additional measures in the President’s plan that would help unemployed women include:
- Extension of federal emergency unemployment insurance into 2012, whichwould prevent some of the 2.6 million American women who are currently receiving benefits from being cutoff next year.
- Prohibiting employers from discriminating against unemployed workers. Employers’ exclusion of the unemployed from applicant pools is an unsound and unfair practice that can be especially harmful to unemployed women.
- Subsidized employment opportunities for low-income individuals who are unemployed. This program would be modeled after the successful TANF Emergency Contingency Fund, which helped states create more than 260,000 jobs for low-income adults and youth before it expired last September. The new “Pathways Back to Work Fund” would include support for summer and year-round employment for low-income young adults – which we hope would target black and Hispanic female teens, the only groups of teens whose unemployment rates increased more during the recovery (June 2009 – June 2011) than during the recession (June 2007- June 2009).
While the passage of these measuresmay be cause for celebration (should Congress choose to act), it would not mark the end of the struggle for women and families. We must still be vigilant to ensure that efforts to pay for the legislation and reduce the deficit do not result in cuts in spending for public services and programs that would destroy jobs and create greater hardship for women and families.