Interfaith Worker Justice

Working together to make good jobs a national priority.

Unemployment and Working Mothers

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As people of faith, we continue to be concerned about our country’s slow economic recovery. With this month’s release of unemployment rates, we see yet another sign that while economists say that the recession has ended, the reality of unemployment and under-employment remains true for millions of Americans—particularly those often left on the margins of the conversation about economic recovery.

The unemployment rate in the month of July decreased to 7.4%. While the total jobless number is 11.5 million, 162,000 jobs were created in July.  Still there remains a startling 4.2 million who are long term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) — 37% of the unemployed population. Among specific worker groups the unemployment for adult men was 7%, adult women 6.5%, whites 6.6%, blacks 12.6%, Hispanics 9.4%, and Asians 5.7%.

While unemployment rates for women have decreased in recent years, one subgroup in particular still suffers from high rates of joblessness: single mothers. According to a July 2013 National Women’s Law Center report, “The June 2013 unemployment rate for single mothers (10.7 percent) was lower than their rate in June 2009 (11.7 percent, [when the recession began]), but nearly 1.6 times higher than their rate in December 2007 (6.9 percent).” The long-term unemployed rate for all women was 37.2% in June, and while the statistic is not available for single mothers, one can conclude that if even a percentage of the long-term unemployed are single mothers, they are suffering greatly.

Unemployment is particularly hard for this population because they do not have a second salary to depend on leading many single mothers to deplete their savings just to pay for basics like food and rent. There is the additional challenge of affording child care and transportation while single mothers are participating in a job search.

There are a number of factors working against single mothers, especially low-income mothers. A July 2012 article on the subject of single mothers that appeared in The Atlantic reports, “As Bureau of Labor Statistic Data shows, the percentage of single mothers employed in an average month dropped from 76 percent in 2000 to 68 percent a decade later. A combination of the overall economic slowdown, public sector job cuts, and economy that favors the college-educated helps explain the soaring numbers in America’s increasingly dual-speed economy.”

The shift in the economy has caused a shift in which mothers are working more. A May 12, 2012 Wall Street Journal article reports, “In 2010 for the first time, married mothers were more likely to be employed than single mothers. That trend became more pronounced in 2011. Last year, 63.4% of mothers living alone had a job, compared to 64.6% of married mothers. That was largely because single moms are having a much harder time finding employment. Their unemployment rate was 15% in 2011, compared to 6% for their married counterparts living with a spouse.” On top of this shift, The Atlantic also reports a shift in annual income for single mothers, “According to The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institute, single-parent families saw their annual earnings plummet twenty percent between 2007 and 2010, compared to only 5 percent for two-parent families. Economic survival has gotten harder and harder for these families: the number of single-parent families in poverty reached 35.3 percent in 2010, up from 30.9 percent three years earlier.”

As we consider these monthly reflections of our economy’s health and the suffering of the unemployed, we remind our elected officials that they must act now to create jobs and strengthen our economy with a special focus on those who are at greatest risk of impoverishment and hardship including single mothers. As scripture tells us, “Give her a share in the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the city gates.” Proverbs 31

You can find DHN’s Jobs Statement of Principles at http://domestichumanneeds.org/uploads/DHN-Jobs-Statement-of-Principles.pdf.

American Friends Service Committee

Church of the Brethren

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Interfaith Worker Justice

Jewish Council for Public Affairs

Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office

National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

National Council of Churches

NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

The Office of Social Justice of the Christian Reformed Church

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas’ Institute Justice Team

The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries

The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society

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