An unemployed worker examining a job board. (Photo: AP)

The public sector has shed 581,000 jobs since December 2008, and women account for 81% of those who lost their positions, according to a new analysis released Friday by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

Many jobs were lost at the state and local level, where women are most likely to work as elementary and middle school teachers.

Between December 2008 and July 2011, the number of public sector women employees at the local level fell 4.7%, while the number of men decreased by only 1.6%, the IWPR analysis found.

At the federal level during the same period, the disparity was even starker. While women employees’ ranks shrank by 3.2%, the number of men employed increased by 5.3%—possibly owing to increased employment in areas such as homeland security and civilian employment in the Department of Defense.

The IWPR said in a statement that layoffs have resulted from state and local government budget cuts brought on by the recession and dwindling economic stimulus funding. While the private sector added 17,000 jobs in August, the public sector lost an equal number.

 “The American Jobs Act proposed by President [Barack] Obama will ensure investment in the country’s infrastructure and education,” Jeffrey Hayes, senior researcher at IWPR, said in the statement. “The boost in funding will help women employees in the public sector, in turn allowing them to invest in their families, their communities, and in the economy overall.”

The administration’s proposal includes a $30 billion investment in education to prevent the layoffs of up to 280,000 teachers while keeping more law enforcement officials and firefighters on the job.