According to a new report by the Rutgers Center for Women and Work, most New Jersey women are back to work, but not necessarily back to normal.
The study analyzed how the pandemic affected child care access, employment and earnings for women in New Jersey. It found that while labor force participation rates are mostly back to normal, more women are cutting back on hours or even moving to part-time jobs that offer more flexibility to care for children or aging parents.
“This is the part of the ‘She-cession’ that no one is talking about,” said Debra Lancaster, executive director of the Rutgers Center for Women and Work. “Labor force participation rates among women have largely recovered in New Jersey, but that’s only part of the story. Thousands of women are sacrificing full-time employment, higher wages, health insurance, and other benefits of the flexibility to care for young children and aging parents.”
In producing the 72-page report, researchers found:
- Women’s unemployment peaked at 18.4% in April 2020 and outpaced men’s unemployment through the end of 2021.
- Women held 63.4% of frontline essential jobs at the height of the pandemic, but they brought home substantially less. On average, men earned $56,506 and women earned $40,664.
- In 2018, 4.4% of men and 4.3% of women held more than one job. Those numbers trended in opposite directions during the pandemic. By the end of 2021, 4.1% of men and 5.2% of women held multiple jobs.
- Even after schools returned to in-person instruction, 23.1% of families still experienced child care disruptions in the last six months of 2021.
- Many women in households earning less than $50,000 cut their work hours (20.5%), left their job (14.6%), or took unpaid leave (13.2%) because of child care disruptions.
“The child care crisis never went away for many low-income families,” said Sarah Small, Rutgers Center for Women and Work economist. “Nearly a quarter of all Black and Hispanic working women cut back on their hours because of child care issues, and 5 to 6% lost their job because of it.”
The researchers also outlined several recommendations to help improve conditions for New Jersey women and their families:
- Improving child care access and affordability;
- Enacting a state-level child tax credit;
- Strengthening housing protections;
- Enhancing access to preventative health care and mental health services; and
- Providing more support for domestic violence survivors, who experienced a higher rate of homelessness during the pandemic.