By: Tim Henderson

In April, the number of single mothers with jobs was 22% lower than it was a year ago, compared with a 9% employment decline for other families with children, according to the analysis.

The hit was even harder for low-wage single moms: Eighty-three percent working as waitresses lost their jobs by mid-April, along with 72% of those working as cleaners, 58% of cooks, half of personal care aides and 14% of customer service representatives, according to the analysis.

Before the pandemic hit, women held 58% of service jobs. By mid-April, with travel halted and restaurants shuttered, nearly 5.7 million women had lost those jobs, compared with 3.2 million men.

Among all women, 17% have lost their jobs since the pandemic began, compared with 13% of men, according to the analysis.

That’s the opposite of what happened in the Great Recession, when male-dominated industries like manufacturing and construction took the biggest hits. Back then, between 2007 and 2009, 6 million men lost jobs, compared with 2.7 million women.

“Job loss is due to the collapse of sectors where low-income women are concentrated, and single mothers are concentrated in low-wage jobs,” said Ariane Hegewisch, a program director at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Women’s Policy.

Single mothers in some parts of the country have fared especially poorly. In New England, 28% of single mothers lost their jobs, and the percentage in some Southern and Western states was 27%. The decline was less severe in in the Dakotas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri and Nebraska.

A New Bind

As states begin to lift restrictions on businesses and ease stay-at-home orders, single mothers face a new bind: Should they go back to work and risk exposure to the still-raging pandemic? Or get by on unemployment benefits that are just starting to materialize?

Many single mothers who will need child care to return to the workforce can’t find it because the pandemic has shut down so many providers, some permanently. The need will be especially acute if camps don’t open this summer and schools delay opening in the fall, said C. Nicole Mason, president of the Institute for Women’s Policy.

She said states should prepare now for the likely spike in demand.

“Women are put in this impossible position of having to choose between their job and taking care of their kids,” said Mason, who coauthored a study published this month on the struggle of mothers during the pandemic.

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