Press Releases

REPORT: Recession Having Tremendous Impact on Working Moms

May 10 2010

Washington, D.C.
– A new report released today by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC) provides an in-depth look at the Great Recession and its toll on working families.  The report, entitled “Understanding the Economy: Working Mothers in the Great Recession,” concludes that mothers’ work is vital not only for their families’ economic security, but also for the strength of the American economy as a whole.  Rather than opting out of the labor force, mothers increased their labor force participation over the recession. 

However, the tough job market meant that many mothers had a difficult time finding much-needed employment.  Until recently, job losses were concentrated in male-dominated industries like construction and manufacturing, so fathers were more likely to lose a job and mothers were more likely to hold onto their employment or quickly find a new job. As job losses slowed in the final months of 2009, women continued to lose jobs while men found employment.

The JEC report findings include:

  • One-third of working mothers—7.5 million—were the sole job-holders in their family, either because their spouse was unemployed or out of the labor force, or because they were heads of household.
  • Married-couple families where the mother was the only job-holder rose 2.5 percentage points between 2007 and 2009, from 4.9 percent of married-couple families to 7.4 percent.  More than ever, families depend on mothers’ work.
  • For single mothers in the labor force, unemployment increased dramatically during the recession.  Between 2007 and 2009, the unemployment rate of single mothers increased from 8.0 percent to 13.6 percent.
  • Many women, including mothers, have been unable to find full-time employment because of the weak labor market.  In 2009, 3.3 million women worked part-time for economic reasons, meaning that either their employer cut back their hours or that they searched for full-time work but could only find a part-time job.  Some of those part-time workers usually worked part-time but would have preferred to move to full-time work, likely because of economic hardship such as a spouse’s job loss.

“Working mothers across America continue to cope with the effects of the Great Recession.  From the unemployed single mom struggling to find a new job to support her family to the part-time married mom scrambling to pick up extra hours to compensate for her husband’s layoff, mothers are strained by the weak labor market. As the economy begins to recover, women are still facing high levels of unemployment and under-employment.  More families are relying on women as breadwinners, and it is imperative that we get more women back to work while we strive to close the earnings gap that still exists,” said Chair Maloney.  “As we work to continue creating job opportunities, we must understand and address the impact of the Great Recession on mothers as a crucial piece of the economic recovery. By doing this, Congress can deliver solutions that effectively address the real challenges faced by American families, and put more people back to work.”

The JEC report is part of a series of reports that analyzes BLS unemployment data during the latest recession to understand its impact on various communities and was prepared by the Majority Staff of the Joint Economic Committee. 


The Joint Economic Committee, established under the Employment Act of 1946, was created by Congress to review economic conditions and to analyze the effectiveness of economic policy.

Bookmark and Share

Related Files: