When Erin Haley-Hitz’s boss called to tell her that she was laid off in mid-March, her first reaction was relief. As a dental hygienist, her job involved close contact with dozens of patients every week.

Yet it didn’t take long for her to begin to worry. How would she pay rent? How would she care for her 18-year-old daughter? And how long would she be out of work?

Haley-Hitz isn’t alone. Dentists’ offices laid off more than half a million people in April.

Haley-Hitz is typical in another way, too: She is a woman, as are bout 95% of dental hygienists.

And U.S. jobs reports have shown women have paid a heavier toll than men during this downturn.