Moms Become Breadwinners As Job Losses Hit Men Legions of women will have little time to mark Mother's Day this year. They will be busy working weekend jobs as they step up to being their families' primary wage earners.
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Moms Become Breadwinners As Job Losses Hit Men

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Moms Become Breadwinners As Job Losses Hit Men

Moms Become Breadwinners As Job Losses Hit Men

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The nation's economic downturn has had an uneven impact on the labor force. Four out of five people who have lost jobs are men. That's because job cuts have been concentrated in construction, manufacturing and financial services -three sectors dominated by men. But it's not as if women are sitting pretty. On this Mother's Day, millions of women find themselves struggling to fill their roles as mothers and as the prime wage earners for their families.

Here to discuss the problems faced by working mothers is NPR's senior business editor Marilyn Geewax. Hi, Marilyn. Welcome back.

MARILYN GEEWAX: Hi. Thank you.

HANSEN: First, tell us a little bit more about the job market. I mean, we know so far most of the job cuts have hit men, as we just said. But is that trend slowing as the recession matures?

GEEWAX: No, actually it's been accelerating. We're seeing the job losses continue to be concentrated in manufacturing and construction. We know that GM and Chrysler are going to lay off more people. Boeing says that they have to cut some of their production. Construction jobs are drying up. It's still going to hit men.

But one thing that we do know that is growing is the health care sector. And women are about three-quarters of the health care sector. And we found out that in April those jobs were up about 17,000 in just the last month.

HANSEN: And so women have a lower jobless rate right now?

GEEWAX: That's right. Now, we've seen it. Men have a jobless rate - adult men -about 9.4 percent, and for women it's only 7.1 percent.

HANSEN: So are the working women breaking out the champagne because of their good fortune?

GEEWAX: No, unfortunately that's not really a time for celebration for women because the problem is women still make less money than men. Most recent government statistics are showing women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. But it's not even so much the money as the benefits.

What we find is that the valuable benefits - medical care, paid vacation and pensions - those things are still concentrated in the jobs that men hold, because they tend to be union jobs. So, if you're a waitress and you lose your job, yes, you've lost your income, but typically you don't lose your health insurance, too, because you didn't have any to start with.

HANSEN: How are the families coping with these financial stresses?

GEEWAX: Well, one of things we're seeing is that there are just more and more women working harder. Women who had been staying at home are now taking part-time jobs and women who are working full-time are working even more. They're taking a second job on the weekends.

Career Builder - a company that does job searches - did their annual Mother's Day survey and they found that 14 percent of working mothers have taken second jobs in the past year. So, if this morning you're planning to go out to celebrate Mother's Day, be sure to tip heavily, because there's a good chance that woman waiting on you is actually working a second job.

HANSEN: Will these workforce shifts have any long-term consequences, either on the job market or on society?

GEEWAX: It's probable that what this is doing is making people more aware of the unevenness of benefits and that may have a political impact as President Obama goes forward with the health care reform issues. And then on a personal side, families are finding that they need to maybe shift how they think about their finances. About a third of women have no life insurance. Well, if you're providing for your family, you probably ought to go out and get some life insurance.

HANSEN: NPR senior business editor Marilyn Geewax. Thanks for joining us, Marilyn.

GEEWAX: You're welcome.

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