Last April, Mary Beth Sammons lost her job as a vice president for an Internet company where she made about $110,000 working 50 hours a week.
Today, Sammons works more than 60 hours a week at two jobs — one at a preparatory high school and another for an online magazine — and is barely making $50,000.
“I laugh to my friends that I successfully learned how to slice my salary by more than half but I’m working more hours,” she said.
While Sammons, 52, is trying to make the best of her situation and finds both her jobs fulfilling, she’d rather be working one job. But as a single mother, with one child in college and another kid heading there, she said, “I take work wherever I can get it.”
It’s one of the stark realities of today’s job market. Good-paying jobs are being lost, and many aren't being replaced. As a result, some workers are finding they need more than one job to make ends meet — or at least keep up their standard of living, said Ellen Ernst Kossek, a human resource professor at Michigan State University's School of Labor & Industrial Relations.
About 7 million Americans are working two or more jobs today, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Women are more likely to juggle multiple gigs than men, representing more than half of the total at 3.7 million.
The rate of multiple jobholders among women in 2009 was 5.7 percent, compared to 4.8 percent for men. “The multiple jobholding rate was highest, 6.5 percent, for women who were widowed, divorced or separated,” said Steve Hipple, an economist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
So why are more women doing extra job duty?
Many in part-time jobs
“Many more women than at any time in our history are either the primary or sole breadwinner in their families,” said Eileen Appelbaum, a professor and co-director for the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University.
“The persistent pay gap between men and women and the greater incidence of part-time work for women means that women are more likely to need more than one job just to make ends meet for their families,” she said.
The need for women to work more than one job is nothing new, she said, but has been exacerbated by the current recession.
“The bulk of the job loss so far has been in men’s jobs — making families even more dependent on the earnings of women, and more aware than ever of just what the disparity in pay between men and women means for working families,” Appelbaum said.
Women also may be working multiple jobs due to industry concentration, said Hipple of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Women make up a large share of employment in education and health services, an industry with high multiple job-holding rates.”
Indeed, Lindsay Quaranta, 23, is a registered nurse in Monroe, Conn., and she works three jobs.
She works full time as a nurse for Visiting Nurse Services; she’s a pharmacy technician at Rite Aid in the evenings; and she also does per diem work for a nursing home.
“On a good week, I work 58 hours a week, and sometimes I work 70 hours,” she said. “Recently, I worked 13 days straight. I thought that was the worst week of my life.”
But she doesn’t lament her busy schedule because her boyfriend lives in Virginia, so she doesn’t need a lot of free time to socialize.
While in nursing school, she racked up about $10,000 in debt. She’s happy that she’s been able to pay it all off thanks to her many gigs. “I’m saving money now, and want to get married and get a house.”
Making up for lost wages
Working multiple jobs is sometimes a hedge against a bad economy for workers who don’t want to be left with nothing if they ever get laid off. It can also be a lifestyle decision, said Cali Yost, CEO of consulting firm Work+Life Fit Inc.
There’s a group of people out there who have lost good-paying corporate jobs, she said, but haven’t adjusted their lifestyles downward. “So they are taking additional jobs to shore up a loss of salary.”
It’s not always low-wage, low-skill workers that opt for multiple jobs, added Andrew Sum, professor of economics and director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University.
“The better educated you are, the more likely you are to hold a second job,” he said. Sometimes an extra job is a voluntary decision for people who just want to earn more money and can easily find more work, including things like consulting.
But clearly, Sum stressed, those on the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder take on more than one job out of necessity. “When times are bad, more people like to work a second job but just can’t find one,” he said. Sum believes the number of multiple job holders would be even higher if there were more jobs available right now.
And there are a growing number of workers who really want one full-time job but just can’t find one, said Heather Boushey, senior economist with the Center for American Progress. These individuals are called involuntary part timers, and if they can’t find work, “they patch together jobs as best they can.”
Scraping together a living
The growing elusiveness of the full time job with benefits is bad news for women in particular, who tend to hold most of the low-wage jobs, said Cindia Cameron, organizing director for 9to5, National Association of Working Women.
“Jobs are scarce, many hours are being cut, and so many women are scraping together a waitress job here and a retail job there,” she said, adding that they typically don’t get health insurance or paid sick time.
Since women are usually the ones that are the caregivers, she added, they often lose their jobs because they take time off for a sick child and as a result bounce around in multiple jobs.
For Sammons, her double-duty jobs require a lot of juggling.
She has a two-hour round trip commute to her job as a director of communications at Christ the King Jesuit College Prep in Chicago. She also works from home as the online editor for PainSolutionsMagazine.com, an online magazine for pain sufferers. In her spare time, she also does freelance work on the side whenever she can for the extra cash, and she’s written two books, one titled “Second Acts That Change Lives.”
“Women are resilient,” she said. After she lost her high-paying job, she said she had tso move on. “I was willing to scrap whatever I could together. What other option do I have?”
Having several jobs, she continued, makes her feel less vulnerable as well because she has something in her back pocket if she is ever laid off again.
The only problem? “I never stop,” she said.