The ‘mancession’ is over — but not for black men

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On Monday, the St. Louis Federal Reserve tweeted out the following chart showing that the gap between male and female unemployment appears to have closed.

This got us thinking about the “mancession” that many analysts wrote about as the economy was melting down. As a result of massive job losses in male-dominated industries like construction and manufacturing, the unemployment rate among males went skyward.


Now, the gap between male and female unemployment seems to have closed for most males, as the economy has begun to add back male-friendly jobs that had been lost—building permits, for instance, just hit their highest levels in eight years.

However, African American males are getting left behind. Only recently has this group’s unemployment rate fallen below 10 percent.

The reasons for this gap are structural. First, for men and women, the share of African Americans in construction jobs is just 5.9 percent, well below the national labor force average of 11.4 percent. So they’ve almost completely missed out on the recovery in that sector.


Meanwhile, job losses experienced in state and local employment has had a disproportionate impact on African-American men and women—at 16.8 percent, public administration jobs still have the largest share of black employment of any industry. Government jobs remain 2 percent below their pre-recession peak, equivalent to half a million jobs.


Finally, some of the fastest job growth has occurred in professional occupations requiring higher levels of education, like healthcare and education itself, according to Howard Wall, an economist at Linden University who wrote about the “mancession” in October 2009 while working at the St. Louis Federal Reserve.

That has made it a lot harder for African-Americans, and especially African-American males, to catch up. Just 21 percent of 25-29 year-old African Americans had completed college in 2014, compared with the national average of 32 percent, according to government data.


“They’re catching up a bit, but we know they were going to have been hit harder” as a result, he said.

Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.