Vetson Love, a 36-year-old father of four from Safety Harbor, was laid off last week from a warehouse job. Before that, his work in construction dried up.
Luckily, his wife, Yvonne, has held a steady job the past five years as a technician for a Dunedin eye doctor. "It seems like the economy is worse for men than for women,'' Vetson Love said during a job fair in Clearwater this week. "My wife makes way more than me now."
If women are from Venus and men are from Mars, jobs are undoubtedly more plentiful on Venus in this economic downturn. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, since employment levels peaked last November, employment among American women over age 20 has risen by about 300,000 jobs. Over the same period, the number of employed men has dropped by nearly 700,000.
The reasons aren't surprising: The categories hardest hit by the downturn are those traditionally dominated by men, such as manufacturing and construction. Health care and education, meanwhile, where women hold 77 percent of the positions, have added jobs. Health care alone added 365,000 jobs over the past year.
The trend is not new. Eileen Appelbaum, director of Rutgers University Center for Women and Work, said the percentage of population employed, both men and women, peaked before the recession in the early 2000s and has been on the decline ever since. "It's not as bad for women as men, but it's still not good,'' she said. "There's just been poor job creation in this country."
Appelbaum added that growth sectors like health and education are dependent on government spending. With deficits in several states, including Florida, those jobs could soon be in jeopardy, she said.
For now, the strength of the health care sector has had a spillover benefit for Trip Guinan of St. Petersburg. His wife, Laura, is an architect who is busy working on a new hospital for St. Joseph's in Lutz. Meanwhile Guinan, 36, is trying to resuscitate his business of recruiting high-level managers and engineers for large construction projects.
"Business has been in the toilet pretty much since Thanksgiving, but it seems to be starting to pick up slowly,'' he said. Guinan has no problem conceding that his wife's income surpasses his at this point.
"I don't think of it as earning more or earning less, she's just successful in her career,'' he said. "But this year, you have to have a thick skin. Everyone's hurting."
Guinan may be among the lucky ones, since his wife holds a high-paying professional job. Overall, women still earn 77 cents to a man's dollar. Ellen Bravo, a professor at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, said the gender dichotomy in this downturn is not good news for anyone.
"It's just that women have more of the lower-paying jobs that are less outsourceable," she said. "You can't have someone cleaning bed pans or office floors from Malaysia."
Derek Furlong of St. Petersburg is feeling the effect of the gender pay gap.
His high-paying electrician work evaporated along with the construction bust. Fortunately, his wife, Christy, has a customer service job for a beauty supply company. "She doesn't make half of what I used to make,'' Furlong, 43, said. "Then again, I never used to have such a hard time finding work."
Kris Hundley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2996.