NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Sparks flew last week as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney plunged into general-election mode tangling over women voters.
Romney has said the president's failed economic policies have waged a real war on women, while Obama's campaign has slammed the former Massachusetts governor's camp for refusing to say whether he would have signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act for equal pay.
Women's status in the United States' economy has shifted, in many instances, intensely since Ronald Reagan's first term in 1981.
Maybe most strikingly, if you're a woman in the United States, it's now more likely that you will hold more jobs than your male colleagues to earn an income.
Since 1994, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) first recorded the data, the number of women working multiple jobs has increased 9.1% to 3.6 million, up from 3.3 million. Men holding two jobs has fallen to 3.3 million, down 15.4% from 3.9 million. This means that nearly 52% of women account for all multi-job holders.
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Though the Romney campaign said last week in a press statement that unemployment had risen 1.1 percentage points since January 2009 -- or the month Obama took office -- the unemployment rate for March was unchanged for women when compared against the BLS's year-2009 average rate of 8.1%.
Since 1987 (the oldest recorded data), the number of women who earn more than their husbands has jumped to 9.3 million, up from 5.3 million, or 75.5%. And wives in the United States who earned the only household income rose to 13.9 million, from 7.6 million, up 83%.
Women have seen a 205.5% surge in average weekly wages since Reagan's first year as president, but they still make 11.7% less per week than the national average of $747 (women make $669). The gap has closed, though, as women in 1981 made nearly 30% less than the national weekly wage average.
It's interesting to note that United States' average weekly wages and salaries rose about $42 during each president's -- Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush -- first term. Among those four presidents, women's weekly earnings grew the most during the 43rd president Bush's first term and increased the least under Clinton's first term.
Between Obama's first year and second year as president, weekly wages rose $12 for women, which was slightly below the $15.33 average incremental rise in the first terms of the previously mentioned presidents.
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Women have outpaced men in full-time employment gains. Since 1981, the number of fully employed women grew 54%, while men had a 22% improvement.
Wives' earnings now account for 37.1% of family income in the United States. During Reagan's first year, wives' earnings made up 27.3% of family income.
The competition to win women voters will likely continue through November, but as to whether women are worse off or in a better position since Obama took office, well, we'll leave that up to you do decide.
-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.
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