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One job is better than two

[NEW YORK] It's easy for most people to find a job in America on Labor Day 2019. The unemployment rate is very low; store windows are plastered with help wanted signs.

But for millions of Americans, one job is not enough.

Bridget Hughes, 29, works a regular day shift at a Burger King in Kansas City, Missouri. Three nights a week, she also works the overnight shift at a nearby McDonald's. She makes US$10 an hour at Burger King and US$9.50 an hour at McDonald's and, together with her husband's job at a gas station, they manage to feed their three children and to pay the rent.

"When I thought of my future, I thought I was going to be at football games and soccer practices and cheerleading, when in all actuality, I'm lucky if I'm home for birthdays," Ms Hughes said. "And my children, they think if mommy is at work all the time, then we should have the money. But the reality is that I'm at work all the time and I don't have the money."

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More than 8 million people — roughly 5% of all workers — held more than one job at a time in July, according to the most recent federal data. The economy has been growing for more than a decade, but their lives offer a reminder that not all Americans are thriving.

Like Ms Hughes, most people with multiple jobs worked a full-time job that just didn't pay enough. Most workers find second jobs in the same industry, but a growing number have taken on "gig" work like driving for Uber.

Daniel Asnake, 49, sleeps in his car after his morning shift as a baggage handler at Reagan National Airport outside Washington, DC. Then he uses the car to earn as much as US$145 a shift as an Uber driver well into the evening. Most days, he leaves home before his two children rise and returns after they have gone to sleep.

Ashley Cocchiara, 30, hopes to drop her second job soon. Ms Cocchiara, who lives south of Pittsburgh, landed a spot in a union training program for industrial painters two years ago, and as she racks up hours, her hourly pay is climbing. For now, she still picks up weekend shifts as a bartender in her hometown, to make enough money to care for her 3-year-old son. By next year, she hopes painting will pay enough so she can spend the time with her son instead.

Daysy Rodriguez, 55, of Elizabeth, New Jersey supplements her full-time job at a warehouse, center, with part-time work promoting a Latin food company at a Food Bazaar. She also works overnight shifts as a home care attendant on weekends. She uses the money from her extra jobs to help her daughter pay her way through college. Her daughter is on pace to graduate next year, and once she does, Ms Rodriguez plans to cut back on her hours. "I'll be able to rest my body and mind," she said. "And I hope that happens soon."

Rich Berry, 53, loves coaching hockey at the State University of New York's upstate campus in Cortland. But during his 20 years as a state trooper, Mr Berry was not allowed to be paid to do it. After retiring in 2015, Berry started drawing a salary from the university, but even with a state pension, he had to work five days a week from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Meldrim's Paint Center in Cortland and part-time as a deputy for the Cortland County Sheriff's Department to pay the bills.

Alicia Cleveland works as a nanny for an Atlanta family three days a week, earning US$18 an hour. Ms Cleveland, 41, would like to find a family that needs full-time help; in the meantime, she picks up odd jobs as a babysitter, chauffeuring kids to activities in her Dodge Journey. After dinner and homework with her own three children, Jaida, 9, Jordan, 13 and Jasmine, 16 she heads back out to drive for Uber and Lyft, often starting on a trendy strip of restaurants near Georgia State University.