How the sexes measured up, by sector
In certain sectors, the recovery since early 2009 has benefited men while women continued to lose ground.
For instance, in retail trade, which employs about the same number of women and men, there's been no recovery for women — they lost 300,000 jobs, Koropeckyj says. Men gained about 150,000 jobs.
Koropeckyj surmised that job growth by automobile dealerships, which tend to hire more men, might explain some of that jobs growth. Men may also be migrating to retail jobs in greater numbers than before.
Similarly, the pattern in the financial services field — including banks, real estate businesses and insurance companies — also showed employment declining for women but rising for men.
Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women's Policy Research, says she was surprised by the job gains by men in the professional and business services sector. They recovered about 460,000 jobs, about half the number they lost. Women regained 23 percent, or 150,000, of the jobs they lost.
Men also scored twice as many jobs (120,000) as women (60,000) in the leisure and hospitality sector, which includes hotels, restaurants and entertainment.
But women won hands-down in the female-dominated health care services sector: They captured 400,000 new jobs, or twice as many as men. But the 200,000 jobs filled by men in that field was still a hefty number, indicating that more men may be gravitating to those openings.
The ripple effect
As employers become confident in the recovery and add to their payrolls, more unemployed adults who stopped looking for work and weren't counted among the jobless may start their search again, driving up the unemployment rate. Koropeckyj predicts that the jobless rate won't return to prerecession levels until 2015.
That doesn't bode well for anyone, but it's particularly damaging for older women. If they haven't saved enough, they could be facing an austere retirement, says Cindy Hounsell, president of the nonprofit Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement in Washington.
"Any time women get behind in employment, it has a ripple effect that can last throughout their lives," she says. "It's a huge problem if they're forced into retiring early or taking early Social Security benefits at a reduced level. It takes away the hope of being able to save more for your retirement."
Carole Fleck is a senior editor at the AARP Bulletin.