Unlike other recessions, the slowdown caused by COVID-19 hit women harder than man economically.

And a new report out of Rutgers suggests women are struggling to regain their status in the workforce, and may continue to do so for quite some time.

Women's unemployment, which peaked at 18.4% in April 2020, outpaced men's through the end of 2021, according to the report by the Rutgers Center for Women and Work.

Most of these women are back to work, but they're not necessarily back to normal — making significant sacrifices related to the way they work, typically as a result of childcare issues.

"This is the part of the 'She-cession' that no one is talking about," said Debra Lancaster, executive director of the Center. "Thousands of women are sacrificing full-time employment, higher wages, health insurance, and other benefits for the flexibility to care for young children and aging parents."

In the last six months of 2021, despite the return to in-person school instruction, 23.1% of families experienced childcare disruptions, according to the report. Women of color and those of low income shouldered the biggest burdens.

At the end of 2021, 5.2% of women were holding multiple jobs, compared to 4.1% of men, the report notes. In 2018, 4.4% of men held more than one job, compared to 4.3% of women.

"We're also seeing folks cut back their hours, or have to supervise their children while they're working," said Sarah Small, co-author of the report and an economist at the Center. "The childcare crisis never went away for many low-income families."

The report also highlighted the gender pay gap among individuals in frontline roles, and showed how policies such as federal stimulus payments and the Child Tax Credit helped low-income families — those who received the payments — afford the basics during uncertain times.

The report puts forth a number of recommendations to improve conditions for women and their families in New Jersey, such as ensuring the longevity of the Child Tax Credit, strengthening housing protections, improving childcare access and affordability, and enhancing access to mental health services.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com

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