By Jonnelle Marte and Aleksandra Michalska

(Reuters) – Katy McAvoy hoped she would have more time for her job search after her 5-year-old daughter started in-person kindergarten in mid-November after months of virtual learning due to the pandemic.

But the school near Grand Rapids, Michigan closed again a week later as COVID-19 infections surged there and across much of the country.

The unpredictable schedule made it difficult for McAvoy to find time for interviews and networking or to figure out a feasible work schedule.

So even though school opened again in January, McAvoy, who was furloughed from her job with a local arts organization last June and permanently laid off in November, decided to stop searching. “What do you say to an employer in that situation?” said McAvoy, 41. “They’re going to hire someone who doesn’t need a bunch of exceptions.”

After being hit disproportionately by pandemic-related job losses last year, women in the United States are struggling to get back to work.

A slowdown in the jobs recovery, obstacles to securing child care and concerns about workplace flexibility are making it difficult for women to recoup the jobs they lost – and threaten to undo some of the economic gains women made before the pandemic.

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