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More laid-off men alters family dynamic

A man looks at his pink slip

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: So that guy Jeremy was talking to a minute ago.The one from Pasadena, Stephen Tulley. Here's what he said when he heard about the 600-thousand people who joined him last month on the unemployment lines.

Stephen Tulley: I'm a statistic.

Truth is, Mr. Tully's a statistic in more ways than one. Maybe you saw the New York Times story today, that 82 percent of all layoffs in this recession have been men. Marketplace's Steve Henn picks up the unemployment story.


Steve Henn: This recession has hit male dominated industries like construction and manufacturing hard. And it's biting into management jobs like Tully's. Today Tully's working, but just temp jobs. And his wife is earning about twice his salary.

Stephen Tully: It was a big switch. It's not been an easy year. The finances are tight and it's more arguments over money.

Heather Boushey is an economist at the Center for American Progress.

Heather Boushey: Unemployment has risen much farther and faster for men than it has for women.

Boushey says in the last 30 years our standard of living rose largely because more women worked. But on average, women still earn less than men and--

Boushey: In a typical married couple family the woman brings home about a little over a third of the total family income.

The Tully's were typical. So when Stephen Tully lost his job, his wife Michelle says the family budget had a gaping hole.

Michelle Tully: At one point we had to actually go to a church for a food bank to help us get through the week. And that's a scary thing. That's a very humbling feeling.

Now, Stephen Tully is doing more chores -- cooking and caring for the kids.

Tully: Oh yeah, of course. For a while there we were calling him the man maid, because he was doing all the house work while I worked.

These kinds of changes in home economics may not be permanent, though. Boushey warns that if the economy continues to weaken fields dominated by women, like education and state government, are likely to see a larger share of layoffs.

In Washington, I'm Steve Henn, for Marketplace.

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How many jobs can the U.S. economy reasonably be expected to create? Since WWI, roughly, with women entering the work force, hasn't it roughly doubled? More workers = more spending = more production -- ad infinitum?

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