America’s low-wage recovery

When and if employment in the United States gets back to what it was before the recession, American working people will still be worse off than before, because on average they’ll be working in lower-paying jobs.

The National Employment Law Project, a liberal think tank, reported that about three out of five of the new jobs gained during the current economic recovery were in low-wage occupations, with median pay less than $13.52 an hour, or $28,122 for someone working full-time, year-round.   But about four out of five of the jobs lost during the recession were in occupations with median wages above that level.

There is good growth in occupations such as retail clerk, kitchen worker, laborer, freight handler, waiter and waitress, home health aide, office clerk and customer service representative.  The low-wage occupations would provide $15,621 to $28,121 a year to someone working full-time year-round.

The moderate-wage jobs would pay $28,142 to $42,973 a year.  They’re mostly in construction, information industries and banking, insurance and real estate.

Median wages in the high-wage jobs would be $42,994 to $110,906 a year.  A relatively small number of these jobs were lost during the recession, but the loss hasn’t been made up.

The NELP researchers said the shift reflects a hollowing out of the middle level of the U.S. economy which has been going on for a long time, plus layoffs of government workers during the recession.

Back in April, the Economic Policy Institute, a labor-oriented think tank, issued a report predicting that 28 percent of American workers will be in low-paid jobs in 2020, about the same as in 2010.  The EPI defined a low-paid job as one insufficient to keep a family of four above the poverty line.  In 2011, that was $23,005, or $11.06 an hour for someone working full-time year-round.  In yet another report, NELP researchers estimated that one in four American workers currently has a job that pays less than $10 an hour.

What all this shows is that economic stimulus is not enough to bring about prosperity.  Unless we Americans are resigned to growing steadily poorer, we have to figure out not just how to restart, but how to rebuild, our economy.

Click on The Low-Wage Recovery and Growing Inequality PDF for the NELP report.

Click on Majority of New Jobs Pay Low Wages, Study Finds for a summary of the NELP report in the New York Times.

Click on The Future of Work: Trends and Challenges for Low-Wage Workers PDF for the EPI report.

Click on Welcome to Your Low-Wage, Temp Work Future for a summary of the EPI report in Forbes.

Click on Obama, Romney and the Low-Wage Future of America for an article by Dan Froomkin of Huffington Post on the failure of either President Obama or Governor Romney to address this issue.

Hat tip to Think Progress.

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One Response to “America’s low-wage recovery”

  1. USA: Most jobs in economic recovery are low-paying, study finds « Talesfromthelou's Blog Says:

    […] America’s low-wage recovery ( […]


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