The weak jobs recovery has hit men and women in different—but nevertheless harsh—ways, and that's leaving many couples struggling to get by despite the fact that the economy has been adding jobs at a trickle for years now.
"We learned to be very frugal," said Mark Jockel, who is currently unemployed and whose wife, Kristine, took a substantial pay cut when she got a new job after a stint of unemployment.
For women, the good news is that, according to the latest payrolls data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs held by women is now higher than when the Great Recession officially began nearly six years ago, in December of 2007.
But the bad news is that while some women have certainly scored good jobs, others are struggling with positions that are low paid, part time or temporary, and perhaps lacking benefits. Economists say that's partly because the sectors that have seen some of the strongest jobs gains amid the tepid economic recovery, such as leisure and hospitality, tend not to pay that well.
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"It's the low-wage industries that are disproportionately growing right now," said Heidi Shierholz, an economist with the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute.
Men can't even claim that victory: The number of jobs held by men is still substantially lower than when the nation went into the Great Recession, according to the latest data on U.S. payrolls.
That's partly because men lost so many more jobs than women, leaving them with much more ground to make up. And experts say it's partly because job growth in male-dominated fields like manufacturing and construction has remained quite weak.
"Some of the industries that got hit early on ... haven't quite grown yet," said Jeffrey Hayes, study director with the Institute for Women's Policy Research, which has been tracking the trend.
Even more worrisome, Shierholz said, is that the number of jobs held by both men and women should be much higher than in December of 2007 for the labor market to be considered healthy. According to her calculations, about 8.2 million more Americans would be on U.S. payrolls—4.5 million men and 3.7 million women—if the Great Recession hadn't happened.
"The number of people who need jobs is growing all the time, so getting back to the December 2007 level ... is different from getting back to the number of jobs you need to meet the job needs," Shierholz said.
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The situation is leaving even many highly qualified men and women in worse shape than before the recession began, even though the economy has technically been in recovery since June 2009.
Take the case of Debbie and Mark Schofield, who live in Raleigh, N.C.
Mark, who is now 62, was president of a marketing communications firm until early 2009, when he said business suffered so much that he felt he had no choice but to cut a number of positions—including his own.
In the years since, Mark has started a consulting business and sent out thousands of resumes. But aside from a short stint of work in early 2012, he hasn't been able to find a full-time job.
"It's mostly been radio silence," he said.