On April 6, 2012, Romney’s press secretary Andrea Saul tweeted, "FACT: Women account for 92.3% of the jobs lost under @BarackObama, a claim also made on Romney's website.
She followed it up a few hours later with this: "@BarackObama touts policies for women & 92.3% jobs lost under him are women's. He's even more clueless than we thought."
When we asked for backup for the claim, the campaign cited national employment figures spanning four years. We found that though the numbers are accurate, their reading of them isn’t.
‘Total nonfarm payroll jobs’
Romney’s campaign pointed to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics employment figures from January 2009, when Obama took office, and March 2012, for all employees and for female employees.
Here they are:
* Total Nonfarm Payroll Jobs:
January 2009: 133,561,000
March 2012: 132,821,000
Net loss: 740,000 jobs.
* Total Female Nonfarm Payroll Jobs
January 2009: 66,122,000
March 2012: 65,439,000
Net loss: 683,000 jobs.
They then divided the net loss among women by the total net loss and came up with 92.3 percent.
Beyond the numbers
The first problem we find with Saul’s tweet is that it begins counting job losses the first month Obama was in office. We have taken points off previous claims for blaming officeholders for situations that existed at the beginning of their administrations, before their policies have had time to take effect. One could reasonably argue that January 2009 employment figures are more a result of President George W. Bush’s policies, at least as far as any president can be blamed or credited for private-sector hiring.
We reached out to Gary Steinberg, spokesman for the BLS, for his take on the claim. He pointed out that women’s job losses are high for that period of time because millions of men had already lost their jobs. Women were next.
"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," 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."
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."
Romney's website said that women account for 92.3 percent of jobs lost under Obama.
By comparing job figures with January 2009 and March 2012 and weighing them against women’s job figures from the same periods, Saul came up with 92.3 percent. The numbers are accurate but quite misleading. First, Obama cannot be held entirely accountable for the employment picture on the day he took office, just as he could not be given credit if times had been booming. Second, by choosing figures from January 2009, months into the recession, the statement ignored the millions of jobs lost before then, when most of the job loss fell on men. In every recession, men are the first to take the hit, followed by women. It's a historical pattern, Stevenson told us, not an effect of Obama's policies.
There is a small amount of truth to the claim, but it ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.