If you were a male of working age in Utah during or after the recession, you were more likely to be unemployed than if you were a female.
And if you were a young man, you were frequently twice as likely to be out of work than older men.
The greatest economic downturn since the 1930s hurt Utah men — especially young men between the ages of 20 and 24 — more than women, according to U.S. Department of Labor figures.
That isn’t to say women didn’t suffer. They did, said Mark Knold, a state Department of Workforce Services economist.
But construction and manufacturing, the industries in Utah that shed the most workers during the downturn, are dominated by men. In contrast, women outnumber men in education and health care, the only industries to add employees.
If any group, male or female, young or old, felt the sting of recession it was men at the start of their working lives. The recession began in December 2007. That year, 5.4 percent of the 20-24 group were unemployed. A year later, the jobless rate jumped to 7.2 percent. And in 2009, it reached 17.6 percent — almost one of every five men.
“When times get tough economically, it’s tough to get a job. In order to get one of those jobs that are available, it takes more skills and more [experience] to get that job, and the people who are coming up short in more cases are young people just because they haven’t been around long,” Knold said.
In 2010, the unemployment rate for 20-24-year-old men eased to 15.5 percent. Last year, the rate was 8.3 percent, but it was still more than 40 percent higher than the jobless rate for Utahns of all ages and both genders who looked for work in 2012. Young males continue to find it hard to land jobs.
“It is a consistent trend,” said Carrie Mayne, chief economist at the Department of Workforce Services.
The industry that lost the most jobs was construction. Employers laid off 57,300 workers between the high point of employment during the summer of 2007 and the end of 2010, according to the department. Construction traditionally employs a lot of young men.
Construction is strengthening as home building recovers, but employment numbers are still 30,000 below where they were six years ago, Knold said.
“A lot of [male workers] just went away. A good percentage may have been transitory, migrating workers to begin with. A lot of the others [who] did stick around have tried to move into other areas” of the economy to support themselves and their families, he said.
That apparently has been a good strategy. Beginning in the summer of 2011, the year-over-year rate of overall job growth in Utah moved above 2 percent. The rate, which covers all job categories, has averaged 3 percent since the start of 2012, one of the strongest performances in the U.S.
The shift of large numbers of construction workers into other occupations has created a labor shortage, many builders say.
“Right now, we are struggling to find the crews to build the homes we are building,” said Rene Oehlerking, marketing director at Salt Lake City-based Garbett Homes, which expects to construct 400 houses this year “Housing is in full recovery, but it’s being stunted by labor shortages.”
The struggles young Utah men face aren’t unique to the state. Last year, the unemployment rate in Arizona for males between 20 and 24 was 14.4 percent. In Colorado it was 12.2 percent. And in California it was 16.1 percent.
Unemployment rates for Utah men 20 to 24 years old
2005 • 5 percent
2006 • 5.2 percent
2007 • 5.4 percent
2008 • 7.2 percent
2009 • 17.6 percent
2010 • 15.5 percent
2011 • 9.5 percent
2012 • 8.3 percent
Source: U.S. Department of Labor