Working mothers are struggling to bring "working" back to their daily routine.

Experts and statistics suggest that schooling and child care disruptions caused by the COVID-19 emergency set working women back, and they're still playing catch up with their male counterparts.

"We can call it the COVID motherhood penalty," said Yana Rodgers, faculty director for the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University.

"Men stepped up to the plate" when the pandemic took over and forced kids and adults to stay at home, Rodgers said, but most of the extra parenting workload fell on women.

"And for some it was impossible to combine paid work with this unpaid work," Rodgers said.

Figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that nationwide, men have fully recouped their pandemic-related labor force losses, but there are more than 1 million fewer women in the labor force compared to February 2020.

"The economy gained 467,000 jobs in January 2022. Women gained just 40.3% of these jobs, or 188,000, while men gained 279,000 jobs last month," the National Women's Law Center said.

Women account for close to two-thirds of the jobs lost nationwide since February 2020, NWLC noted.

According to Rodgers, women were more likely to be working in sectors — food service and entertainment, for example — that were forced to limit business at the height of the pandemic.

"Even though women are getting more employment again ... not all women are recovering in the same way. So we do need to look at racial gaps as well, and ethnicity gaps," Rodgers said.

Black women and Latinas posted a higher unemployment rate than women overall in January 2022, according to BLS data.

Rodgers said she's optimistic about the long-term outlook for working women — flexibility options prompted by the pandemic are likely to stick around and benefit moms looking to return to the workforce.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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