Skip to main content

White House focuses on recession's effect on women

By the CNN Wire Staff
The White House says women have lost jobs and seen their median annual earnings fall since the start of the recession.
The White House says women have lost jobs and seen their median annual earnings fall since the start of the recession.
  • NEW: Obama says government loans have helped female entrepreneurs
  • The "Jobs and Economic Security for America's Women" report was released Thursday
  • It cites the importance of women in the U.S. economy
  • Women were a key voting bloc for Democrats during the 2008 elections

Washington (CNN) -- President Barack Obama made the case Thursday that his administration's steps to avoid an economic depression and promote small business growth helped women, who now comprise half the U.S. workforce and increasingly are opening their own businesses.

Speaking at a backyard event in Seattle, Washington, Obama cited a report released Thursday by his White House economic team that detailed the impact of the recession on women.

"The economy has changed where women have made such enormous strides that they now constitute half the workforce," Obama said, adding that women also are a larger proportion of small business owners than in the past.

"When talking about the middle class, you're talking about women in the workforce," he said, adding that in the past decade, the average middle-class family lost 5 percent of income amid a period of the most sluggish job growth since World War II.

In particular, Obama noted how the administration worked with Democrats in the House and Senate to pass a bill this year that provided tax breaks and easier credit for small businesses. The economic stimulus bill of 2009 also provided grants and loans for small business growth, he said.

Jody Hall, a woman at the event who founded Cupcake Royale in the Seattle area, thanked Obama for the help she got from a loan that enabled her to expand operations and hire more people. The loan from the Small Business Administration required 10 percent down, compared to the 25 percent down or more required by banks, and provided a set loan rate for 20 years, said Hall, adding that she now has six retail outlets.

Obama noted that the Small Business Administration is "three times more likely to provide loans to women-owned businesses than regular banks have been."

Senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett wrote on the White House blog Thursday that women are either the primary or co-breadwinner in almost two-thirds of American families.

"We understand that times are tough and there are many challenges ahead," she said. "But, we also know that together we can make a better future for the next generation of women."

The report said the Obama administration has implemented and proposed policies that support women at all stages of their careers, according to the executive summary by the National Economic Council.

"Our economy has suffered the worst meltdown since the Great Depression," Jarrett told CNN's "American Morning."

"Many, many people are suffering and they are out of work and through no fault of their own," she said. "What the president has done since day one is to try to lay a new foundation to move America forward. But it takes time."

The "Jobs and Economic Security for America's Women" report cited tax and education credits under the Recovery Act and the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act for saving jobs in education and health care, which employ large pools of women.

"Since women are nearly 50 percent of the workforce, the recession's economic impacts on women are even more consequential for the economy than they would have been in past recessions," the report said.

"As a result of the recession that started in December of 2007, women have lost jobs and seen their median annual earnings fall. Further, women have faced increased economic insecurity as housing prices declined and states and municipalities have cut back on the provision of social services."

The White House said its policies will promote economic expansion and job growth for women, train and educate women for quality jobs, support working women at home and in their jobs, and support women in retirement and between jobs.

The report was released as the White House is making a final series of campaign swings ahead of midterm elections that are expected to be difficult for the administration and could see the Democratic Party lose majorities in the House and possibly the Senate.

Women were a key voting bloc for Democrats in 2008.

CNN's Tom Cohen contributed to this story.