Closing The Gap

60% of people who work multiple hourly jobs are women: 'They will do what they have to do’

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Four years after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, women are back at work — and taking jobs or looking for them at a higher rate than they were before it started. In February 2020, 77% of women ages 25 to 54 participated in the labor force, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In February 2024, 77.7% of women in that age group were participating. That's nearing June 2023's peak of 77.8%, the highest rate since 2007.

"Prime age women, so women between the ages of 25 and 54, are unequivocally driving the labor market recovery from the Covid recession," says Lauren Bauer, a fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution and the associate director of its policy proposals initiative The Hamilton Project.

For a lot of women, reentering the labor force does not necessarily mean finding just one job. Scheduling software company Deputy recently analyzed 81,413,785 shifts of 420,219 hourly U.S. workers and found a rise in people taking on multiple gigs. "Our data showcases a substantial increase in poly-employment across Deputy platforms, more than doubling since 2021," says Silvija Martincevic, CEO of Deputy.

And 60% of those taking on multiple roles are women. Here's why experts think women are doubling up.

'Female shift workers dominate the health-care sector'

To begin with, women are overrepresented in comparatively low paying jobs.

"We found that female shift workers dominate the health-care sector, constituting 77% of the workforce in 2023," says Martincevic. "In the hospitality sector, women also constitute the majority of shift workers, accounting for 60% of the workforce. Similarly, in the services industry, female shift workers make up the majority, accounting for 55% of employment."

On average, health-care workers in the U.S. make $19 per hour, according to ZipRecruiter, hospitality workers make an average of $17.24 per hour, according to, and service industry workers make an average of $14.44 per hour, according to Zippia. The living wage in the U.S. is about $25 per hour, according to MIT's Living Wage Calculator.

This lower pay could explain, at least in part, why so many women are taking on multiple jobs. "When women are in the workforce," says Amy Hilliard, adjunct associate professor of strategy at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, "if they're not getting commensurate pay and income, they will do what they have to do to supplement that, particularly in periods of inflation."

Many women of color 'find they need to supplement their incomes'

Some groups of women are more likely to pick up a second job because they need to make more money.

Young women, for instance, might take lower paying and entry-level jobs as those are the ones they're eligible for. In 2023, 1,739,000 20-to-24-year-olds worked in food preparation and serving-related occupations such as cooks, waiters and fast food and counter workers, according to BLS. Another 554,000 worked as cashiers, 510,000 worked as retail salespersons and 188,000 worked as nursing assistants.

More single women are picking up extra work as well. "It's the largest percentage group of people who are working multiple jobs," says Hilliard, "women who have never been married or women who are widowed or divorced."

That could in part be because bearing the brunt of household costs is expensive. On average, single people in Denver spend $8,984 more per year on rent than couples, $9,000 more per year in Atlanta and $20,100 more per year in New York, according to real estate marketplace Zillow. They also bear the brunt of rising inflation on their own, with prices up 3.2% year over year in February.

Finally, race might play a role in these statistics as well. A larger share of Black and Hispanic workers are employed in the service sector, according to BLS. Many times Black and Latina women "find that they're not getting the salaries that they need," says Hilliard, adding that, "they find they need to supplement their incomes."

'Poly-employment stems from a need for scheduling flexibility'

For some women, picking up a second gig is more a matter of choice than necessity. Some young women may do so to gain new skills across industries, for example.

And for married women with children, it could be a matter of flexibility.

"Women with very young children, so children under the age of five, are participating in the labor force at much higher rates now than they were before," says Bauer. Only five years ago they were participating at a rate of about 65%. Today, they're participating at a rate of more than 70%.

A woman who wants to work 30 hours per week can piece it together "with 20 hours from this clothing store and 10 hours over the weekend at the grocery store," she says. "And that is actually what they desire."

Deputy itself has seen this bear out. They "found that poly-employment stems from a need for scheduling flexibility as a result of lack of access to affordable child care," says Martincevic. "Many women we studied are also part of the 'sandwich generation,' simultaneously caring for both children and aging parents."

Bottom line, regardless of life circumstance or demographic, more women are picking up a second job because "women tend to do what they have to do," says Hilliard.

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