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As the White House and its Democratic allies were spending a day decrying a persistent wage gap between men and women, critics of President Barack Obama worked just as aggressively to poke holes in the Democratic narrative.
On the April 8, 2014, Fox News’ The Five, panelist Eric Bolling offered several statistics that suggested that Democrats were themselves retrograde on gender equity.
Bolling began by repeating a claim that women in the White House are paid 88 cents for every dollar earned by men. Then he said that, as a senator in 2008, Obama paid his female staffers 70 cents for every dollar his male staffers earned.
Then Bolling offered a claim that really raised our eyebrows.
"Of all the jobs President Obama claims to have created since he started, only 38.5 percent are women," Bolling said. "So 61.5 percent have gone to men."
Is that correct? To find out, we turned to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the federal office that calculates employment data.
We looked at the gender breakdowns for the increase in employed Americans between January 2009, when Obama took office, and March 2014, the most recent month for which data is available.
By the numbers, Bolling was on the mark. During that period, the number of men holding jobs increased by a little more than 2.2 million, while the number of women holding jobs rose by a bit less than 1.4 million. So 61 percent of the increase in employment during that period was accounted for by men -- just as Bolling said.
Just to be safe, we also checked the period between July 2009 -- the official end of the last recession -- and March 2014. We found that the men’s share of added jobs was even higher for this period, at 65 percent.
We also confirmed that this proportion of men isn’t just simply a reflection of the overall gender makeup of employment in the United States. Over the period we were looking at, the universe of employed Americans has broken down pretty consistently -- 53 percent men, 47 percent women. So for 61 percent of job gains to go to men is a disproportionate share.
This may be an embarrassment for the administration -- that’s a matter of opinion. On the other hand, there is an explanation for the male-centric nature of job creation during the recovery, and it doesn’t have much, if anything, to do with Obama.
Put simply, the recession was a "man-cession" -- meaning that men were hit disproportionately. And given that, it’s not surprising at all that the recovery has been something of a "man-covery."
Let’s take a closer look at the data.
During the recession -- from December 2007 to July 2009 -- the number of men working fell by almost 4.7 million, but the number of women working fell by a much smaller amount, about 1.7 million.
In other words, during the recession, 74 percent of the job losses came from jobs held by men. And the fact that men are now getting 61 percent of the newly created jobs means they’re actually not even regaining jobs at a rate high enough to wipe out the losses they suffered during the recession.
"The first 12 or 13 months of the recession -- the pre-Obama recession -- were terribly hard on men, because it was hard on the industries in which men hold a disproportionate share of the jobs, especially construction and durable manufacturing," said Gary Burtless, an economist with the Brookings Institution. "After President Obama took office, the recession spread to many more industries -- industries in which women held a higher proportion of the jobs."
Then, Burtless continued, when the recovery began, employment tended to increase in industries that were "severely affected in the early, pre-Obama recession, the industries where men were more likely to hold most of the jobs -- durable manufacturing at first, then construction."
Meanwhile, there’s one sector of the economy that has seen steep declines since the last recession -- government, which has shed 738,000 jobs since January 2009. The government workforce, notably, is disproportionately female.
Dean Baker, co-director of the liberal Center for Economic Policy Research, added that there’s historical precedent for this kind of male-dominated recovery.
"In the year from December 1982 to December 1983, employment of men increased by 2.26 million while employment of women increased by just 1.7 million," Baker said. "And this was a period when there were still large numbers of women entering the workforce for the first time."
Bolling said that, "of all the jobs president Obama claims to have created since he started, only 38.5 percent are women. So 61.5 percent have gone to men."
Bolling is right on the numbers, but as a shot against Obama, the claim rings somewhat hollow. The male tilt to job gains during Obama’s presidency follows a strong pattern of male job losses in the months of the recession before Obama took office. So the gender balance of job creation has more to do with cyclical economic factors than anything the administration did or didn’t do.
The claim is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context. So we rate it Half True.
Eric Bolling, comments on Fox News’ The Five, April 8, 2014
Bureau of Labor Statistics, main index page for Current Population Survey, accessed April 9, 2014
Email interview with Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic Policy Research, April 9, 2014
Email interview with Gary Burtless, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, April 9, 2014
Email interview with Tara Sinclair, economist at George Washington University, April 9, 2014
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