Men not working

Kijong Kim | June 4, 2010

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its May employment situation report today and the news was mostly grim. Sure, unemployment dropped to 9.7 percent from 9.9 percent. But don’t get too excited, because almost all the new jobs created in May were for census-takers, and these folks will be unemployed again soon.

In more bad news masquerading as good, the so-called mancession appears to be easing. Most developed countries are beset by one of these male recessions, with men suffering the brunt of job losses due to their much greater representation in construction and manufacturing—both of which are hard-hit almost everywhere. In this country, at least, the mancession looks like it’s easing—until you look a little closer and realize that this is only the case because men leaving the labor force increased by 4.7 percent over last year, an increase twice that of women. In other words, men aren’t gaining jobs. They’re giving up.

What shall we do with the horrendous number of idle men? Their skills may not be valued in industries that have done better than traditional men-industries. Training for new kinds of work is one possibility, but demand for new workers may not be there yet; relocation to other states may be out of the question if your mortgage is underwater; and the Euro crisis is a pinch of salt on the slow-healing wound of recession.

For a great many men, this Father’s Day is unlikely to be a happy one.


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