During the recession, jobs were lost all over the place. But mid-wage occupations (hourly wages from $21.14 to $54.55) were decimated, according to an analysis by the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group. Neither mid-wage nor high-wage positions have returned to their recession levels. But low-wage jobs have soared.
There are now 7.3 percent fewer mid-wage occupations than there were in 2001, compared to 8.7 percent more low-wage ones.
This is what the American workforce looks like at last count, with the median annual wages of the 10 biggest occupations labeled in red. The three largest occupations -- office and administrative support, food preparation and serving, and sales and related -- employ over a third of the workforce, and pay, on average, less than $35,000 a year.
Currently, 28 percent of all workers are in jobs that keep them at or below the poverty line for a family of four ($23,005 in 2011). And this is the way it's going to be for at least another decade, according to an Economic Policy Institute analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
Seven percent of Americans who are working have incomes that fall below the federal poverty level -- for one. For part-time workers, that number is 14.4 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Retail and food service sales are two of the fastest growing low-wage occupations. Their future is looking bright.
Personal care work, like home health aides and personal care aides, is growing at five times the average rate of all occupations. They also earn less than $10 an hour, on average.
Manufacturing (median wage, $24.41 an hour) hasn't been so rosy. We aren't going back to the 1970s anytime soon.
A lot more Americans are also working part-time. Not as many as at the recession's peak mind you, but still way more than pre-recession levels.
Despite this doom and gloom, we're doing better than we were in the '80s and '90s, financially speaking. It's in the past 15 years that we've really taken a beating, with the average income of a working age household (householders under 65) falling from $61,574 a year in 2000 to $55,276 in 2010. We've just been growing and getting richer for so many decades that this slip hurts. Bad.
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