Back in 2011, a question perplexed many, even the likes of the Pew Research Center: why were women losing jobs in the private sector? Teachers were being fired because state budgets were so crunched, but that couldn’t explain why private sector women were falling behind men. My Roosevelt Institute colleague Mike Konczal and I took a look at the job losses by occupation and found a stunning trend: women had lost a total of 925,000 jobs in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s “office and administrative support occupations” category.
Checking in a year later, a new report from the National Employment Law Project shows this trend is continuing. It finds that mid-wage jobs—those making $13.84 an hour to $21.13 an hour—have been decimated during the recovery, while job gains have happened mostly in low-wage jobs that make between $7.69 and $13.83 an hour. When the report stacks up the mid-wage jobs with the weakest recovery growth, secretaries and administrative assistants clock in at number two, having lost 345,101 jobs. Third are first-line supervisors and managers of office and administrative workers—those just above the secretaries but in similar roles—who have lost 327,559 jobs. That’s a grand total of 672,660 administrative jobs lost since 2009.
This spells bad news for female workers, who hold three-quarters of these jobs. And the driving force behind the losses is just as troubling. Given that the ability to find a new job is almost nil in the miserable job market, workers are feeling trapped. (For example, the quit rate has hovered at a very low rate since the recovery began.) That gives employers huge leverage in pushing their employees to take on heavier loads without higher pay. This is what Mother Jones calls “the great speed-up”: all work and no pay makes American workers stressed out. In a Spherion Staffing survey, over half of workers had taken on new roles, but just 7 percent had gotten more money for doing so. This trend means that secretaries and administrative assistants are getting the ax, while their workloads get pushed to their remaining coworkers.