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Friday, April 27, 2012

Men’s wages still struggling to recover from recession

WASHINGTON – Men continue to take a bigger hit in their paychecks than women because of lingering effects of the Great Recession, according to a study by the Conference Board.

Average wages for women remain lower than those for their male counterparts, by nearly 20 percent. But men’s wages have been much slower to rebound from the effects of the recession, which had its most severe impact on male-dominated industries, such as construction, the study found.

Although the recession technically ended in 2009, men’s wage growth had rebounded to half the average rate of the previous decade by last year. Meanwhile, the growth in wages for women had almost fully recovered, the study said.

The findings came as the Obama administration has sparred with the campaign of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in recent weeks about which gender has suffered more in the down economy.

Romney said 92 percent of the jobs lost since Obama took office were held by women. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner called the claim ridiculous. The nonpartisan fact-checking group Politifact has rated Romney’s statistic as “mostly false.”

The Conference Board study didn’t break down job losses by gender.

But it said a reason for the difference in wage growth is that the recession’s effects were felt hardest in sectors such as construction and housing, where jobs are largely held by men. Consequently, those industries have a large supply of excess workers, keeping male wage growth low.

Wages for men and women each grew an average of about 3 percent annually from 1998-2008. But from 2008-10, men’s wages stayed constant while women’s wages grew about 1 percent a year, the study said.

There was no such gender gap in the last period of low-wage group, from 2002-04.

The study also found that there was less wage growth for younger and low-skilled workers than for older and high-skilled workers.

The slowdown in wage growth will continue to have a negative impact on the economy, the study said.

“While there were signs of modest overall wage improvements in 2011, the severe depression of wage growth during the Great Recession – turning negative in the hardest hit regions – is likely to impact consumer spending, inflation, corporate profits, income inequality, and employee engagement for many years to come,” said Gad Levanon, director of macroeconomic research at the Conference Board and a co-author of the study.

“Moreover, the uneven distribution of this pain among different groups may carry deep social and political implications for the future development of the economy,” Levanon said.