Fox Spreads Romney's Dubious Talking Point On Women's Job Losses
Fox is reinforcing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's attacks on the Obama administration by parroting his misleading claim that since President Obama took office, "92.3 percent of the job losses ... has been women who've lost those jobs." In fact, this indicator is meaningless in understanding how Obama's policies have impacted working women as it ignores several important factors, including when the recession began and the fact that more women are in the workforce today than in January 2008.
Mitt Romney: "The Real War On Women Has Been Waged By The Obama Administration"
Mitt Romney Made Dubious Women Jobs-Loss Claim To Attack Obama Over Economy. CNSNews.com reported:
GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney on Tuesday said President Barack Obama is waging war on women through his administration's failure on the economy.
The former Massachusetts governor said 92.3 percent of job losses during Obama's presidency were experienced by women.
"The other day there's been some talk about a war on women. The real war on women has been waged by the Obama administration's failure on the economy. Do you know what percent of the job losses in the Obama years have been casualties of women losing jobs as opposed to men?" Romney said during a campaign stop in Wilmington, Del.
"Do you know how many women - what percent of the job losses were women? 92.3 percent of the job losses during the Obama years has been women who've lost those jobs. The real war on women has been the job losses as a result of the Obama economy," he said. [CNSNews.com, 4/11/12 ]
Fox Runs With Claim That Women Have Suffered 92 Percent Of Job Losses
Fox Host Steve Doocy: 92 Percent Of The People "Who Have Lost Jobs On Barack Obama's Watch Have Been Women? That's Big." On the April 11 edition of Fox & Friends,co-host SteveDoocy presented Romney's talking point:
DOOCY: And [Romney] uses for the first time we have heard a statistic that is absolutely jaw-dropping. Listen to this. He's going to mention that 93, rather 92 percent of the people who have lost jobs during Barack Obama's three and a half years have been women. Listen to this.
DOOCY: Ninety-two percent of the women -- of the people who have lost jobs on Barack Obama's watch have been women? That's big. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/11/12]
Conservative Fox Guest: "Under Obama The Number Of Unemployed Women Has Increased By 858,000." Adding to Romney's misleading figure, conservative author Jedediah Bila said on Fox News that the number of unemployed women since January 2009 has increased by 858,000:
BILA: [Women] know what these costs are. They're the ones who are unemployed. I want to add one figure to Mitt Romney -- what he said before, under Obama the number of unemployed women has increased by 858,000. Talk to women. Explain why these policies, Obamacare, etcetera, are hurting women. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 4/11/12]
Doocy: "92 Percent Of People Who Have Lost Jobs Since That Guy Took Office Have Been Women." On the April 12 edition of Fox & Friends, Doocy again pushed Romney's talking point:
DOOCY: The former governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Mr. Romney, said -- and I looked it up. He was citing Department of Labor Statistics, which said that since Barack Obama has been in office -- since the day he took office up to the end of March 2012 -- of the women who have been losing jobs under President Obama, 92 percent of the people who have lost jobs have been women. Ninety-two percent of people who have lost jobs since that guy took office have been women. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/12/12]
But Romney And Fox Are Ignoring Key Facts About The 2007 Recession
Wash. Post: 92 Percent Claim Is "A Function Of The Dates One Picks." Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler found that the 92 percent figure was a "function of the dates one picks":
[T]here is less to this stat than meets the eye. First of all, why start in January? Obama, after all took office on January 20. If you start the data in February, then the overall job loss is just 16,000 jobs--while women lost 484,000 jobs. (We should note that in a previous column  we said that, by picking January, the RNC was using a relative common measure of job growth during a presidency.)
How could women lose more jobs than the overall total? It's a function of the dates one picks. In fact, the picture becomes clearer if you start running the data from the date the recession began -- December 2007. With that starting point, the total decline in jobs was just over 5 million, with women accounting for nearly 1.8 million of those jobs.
Now look what happens when we just look at the past year, March 2011 to March 2012. Men gained nearly 1.9 million jobs while women gained 635,000 jobs.
In other words, men did lose more jobs in the recession. Now that the economy is growing again, men are recovering jobs at a faster pace than women. In fact, the latest employment report shows that male participation in the work force was up 14,000 while female participation fell 177,000, in part because women tend to work in retail or government jobs (such as teaching), which have been cut in recent months. [The Washington Post, 4/10/12 ]
AP Fact Check: In Recession, Which "Began 13 Months Before Republican George W. Bush Left The White House," More Men Than Women Lost Jobs. In its fact check looking at Romney's claim, the Associated Press wrote: "As a meaningful measure of Obama's economic record and its effect on women, though, it is dubious at best." It further stated that the people pushing the claim "ignore how recessions generally -- and the last one in particular -- unfold." From AP's article:
Romney's math is solid as far as it goes. But more men than women have lost jobs since the recession began -- that's why economists called it a "man-cession."
The deep recession that began 13 months before Republican George W. Bush left the White House hit men harder than women at the beginning. Recessions often do that because male-dominated enterprises such as construction and manufacturing tend to be the first to tumble in a downturn. Eventually, sectors with more women in the workforce follow suit, and that happened mostly after Obama took office.
In the recession that began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009 -- with high unemployment lingering to this day -- the crisis in the financial sector and bursting of the housing bubble accentuated the damage to jobs held primarily by men. "The initial losses were even more male-dominated than normal because of the nature of the recession," [Diane] Swonk [chief economist at financial services firm Mesirow Financial] said.
Women were more heavily represented in jobs that suffered in the recession's later months and beyond, as revenue-strapped state and local governments laid off teachers and cut other public-sector workers.
Romney's claim is based on statistics showing the number of unemployed women grew by 858,000 since January 2009, Obama's inauguration month. But it ignores the disproportionate hit on men the year before Obama became president - and their greater job losses overall.
Some 3.4 million men and 1.8 million women have lost jobs since the recession started, according to the government. [Associated Press, 4/12/12 ]
Talking Points Memo: "Male-Dominated Industries Took A Hard, Early Hit During The Recession." As a chart from economist Justin Wolfers of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School showed, men suffered higher job losses during the recession:
Male-dominated industries took a hard, early hit during the recession. As those industries rebound, more jobs are going to men than to women. Conversely, women lost a huge number of jobs in states and municipalities as a result of teacher layoffs -- a hemorrhaging that could have been stanched by Obama-proposed legislation to spur teacher hiring, which the GOP blocked.
[Talking Points Memo, 4/11/12 ]
PolitiFact: "Women Account For Just 39.7 Percent" Of Total Jobs Lost In Recession. PolitiFact rated the 92 percent statistic "mostly false," because it "ignores critical facts that would give a different impression":
"Between January 2009 and March 2012 men lost 57,000 jobs, while women lost 683,000 jobs. This is the reverse of the recession period of December 2007-June 2009 (with an overlap of six months) which saw men lose 5,355,000 jobs and women lose 2,124,000 jobs," [Bureau of Labor Statistics spokesman Gary] Steinberg told us in an email.
So timing was important. And if you count all those jobs lost beginning in 2007, women account for just 39.7 percent of the total.
Gary Burtless, a labor market expert with the Brookings Institution, explained the gender disparity.
"I think males were disproportionately hurt by employment losses in manufacturing and especially construction, which is particularly male-dominated. A lot of job losses in those two industries had already occurred before Obama took office," he said. "Industries where women are more likely to be employed - education, health, the government - fared better in terms of job loss. In fact, health and education employment continued to grow in the recession and in the subsequent recovery. Government employment only began to fall after the private economy (and private employment) began growing again." [PolitiFact, 4/10/12 ]
NBC News: "Women Actually Make Up A Larger Share Of The Workforce Now Than They Did In Jan. 2008." An NBC News fact check criticized the Romney campaign for painting an "incomplete picture" and stated:
First Read contacted the Bureau of Labor Statistics to get to the bottom of this 92 percent charge. The conclusion: The Romney campaign's figures don't tell the whole story.
The campaign, in a research document circulated yesterday and on its website, said the numbers come from the "Current Employment Statistics" database at BLS. The document notes that there was a net change of -740,000 nonfarm payroll jobs from January 2009 to March 2012 -- and that women accounted for 683,000 of those jobs.
That is accurate, according to BLS. But Brian Davidson, an economist at BLS, told First Read: "The math they use is correct; the terminology is completely wrong."
Davidson noted that women actually make up a larger share of the workforce now than they did in Jan. 2008 before the financial meltdown, and since January 2009, it is a statistically insignificant change.
In January 2008, women made up 48.8 percent of the workforce; in January 2009, 49.5 percent; now 49.3 percent.
"Do we still have the same amount of women workers relative to men in the 'net-change'? Yes we do," Davidson said.
He added, "It's like trying to pull a bunny out of a hat, but there's no bunny inside." [NBC News, First Read, 4/11/12 ]
CNN: "Since February 2010, Women Have Actually Gained 863,000 Jobs." CNN reported that employment among women has actually increased by 863,000 jobs since February 2010:
[T]he statistic does not reflect that men constituted a much larger chunk of the job loss pie in the year leading up to Obama's inauguration.
In the 2008 calendar year, men lost a total of 2.7 million nonfarm jobs, compared with 895,000 jobs lost for women. Men made up 75.4% of the 3.6 million jobs lost that year.
Romney's claim also does not reflect that the job losses for women began in March 2008, almost a full year before Obama took office. At that point, women held a total of 67.3 million nonfarm payroll jobs, the highest level of female employment of the Bush administration.
From that high point, the number of women with nonfarm payroll jobs fell for 23 consecutive months, spanning from the final 10 months of the Bush administration and first 13 months of the Obama administration. Since February 2010, women have actually gained 863,000 jobs. [CNN.com, 4/11/12 ]
Recession Aftermath Impacted Women-Dominated Industries
Economist Betsey Stevenson: "Many Of Women's Job Losses Have Been Government Jobs ... Which Have Been Slower To Come Back." PolitiFact reported:
Betsey Stevenson, a business and public policy professor at Princeton University, also pointed out that "in every recession men's job loss occurs first and most, with unemployment rates for men being more cyclical than those of women's."
She added that many of women's job losses have been government jobs -- teachers and civil servants -- which have been slower to come back because they require greater government spending.
So have Obama's policies been especially bad for women?
Said Stevenson: "I don't think you could point to a single piece of evidence that the pattern of job loss: men first then women, is due to the president's policies. It's a historical pattern that has held in previous recessions." [PolitiFact, 4/10/12 ]
Ezra Klein: The Recession Aftermath Was "Harder On Industries That Women Dominate, Like Retail And Teaching." The Washington Post's Ezra Klein wrote that recessions tend to hit male-dominated industries first:
To put this a bit differently, the crisis began in industries that men dominate, like construction and manufacturing. That was where we saw the bulk of the job losses. But the aftermath has been harder on industries that women dominate, like retail and teaching. Because Obama took office midway into the recession, he's got less of the initial crisis on "his" record, but all of the aftermath.
The reality is that the recession has been easier on women than men. You might remember various magazines branding it the "he-cession." [The Washington Post, Wonkblog, 4/11/12 ]
St. Louis Fed: "Men Always Bear The Brunt Of Unemployment Losses During The Recession." A study by the St. Louis Fed broke down unemployment during recessions along gender lines in the last six recessions and found that unemployment is usually higher among men than women:
As already mentioned, men always bear the brunt of employment losses during recessions, and the current recession has been no different. This is true whether one looks at payroll employment, as earlier studies have, or at household employment, as this study does.
[St. Louis Fed, September 2009 ]
Obama Has Pushed For Increasing Female Employment
NY Times: First Bill Obama Signed Was Aimed At Eliminating Gap Between Men's And Women's Salaries. The first bill President Obama signed as president did away with the 180-day statute of limitations in wage discriminations cases:
President Obama signed his first bill into law on Thursday, approving equal-pay legislation that he said would "send a clear message that making our economy work means making sure it works for everybody."
Mr. Obama was surrounded by a group of beaming lawmakers, most but not all of them Democrats, in the East Room of the White House as he affixed his signature to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a law named for an Alabama woman who at the end of a 19-year career as a supervisor in a tire factory complained that she had been paid less than men.
Now 70, Ms. Ledbetter discovered when she was nearing retirement that her male colleagues were earning much more than she was. A jury found her employer, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company plant in Gadsden, Ala., guilty of pay discrimination. But in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court threw out the case, ruling that she should have filed her suit within 180 days of the date that Goodyear first paid her less than her peers. [The New York Times, 1/29/09 ]
Matt Yglesias: The Obama Administration "Pushed Hard For Legislation To Prevent Layoffs Of Teachers." Because teaching is dominated by women, preventing teacher layoffs would have resulted in higher levels of employment for women:
The story within the story is that recessions hit male-dominated highly cyclical sectors like construction and manufacturing first. Women tend to disproportionately work in sectors like health care and education that show slow and steady job growth. But those male-dominated cyclical sectors also bounce back relatively quickly. So since the recession started more than a year before Obama's inauguration, male job losses were close to bottoming out by the time Obama took office and he's presided over a lot of rebound growth in male employment. Women, by contrast, have been devastated by cascading waves of teacher layoffs:
Not only have these layoffs primarily been implemented at the behest of Republican Party governors and state legislators, but the Obama administration twice--once in the Spring of 2010  and a second time in the fall of 2012 --pushed hard for legislation to prevent layoffs of teachers. These efforts were roundly denounced by conservatives as wasteful and costly "bailouts" and so they didn't happen. [Slate, Moneybox, 4/11/12 ]