Plenty Of Work At The Bottom

Recovery has added far fewer higher-paying jobs

ABJREK Las Vegas, Nevada, America
Alamy

Four years after the official end of the Great Recession, more jobs than ever are being created at the bottom of the pay scale, but far fewer in higher-paying occupations, a new report finds.

There are 1.85 million more jobs in low-wage industries like fast food and retail today than there were before the recession. But, there are nearly two million fewer jobs in mid-wage and higher-wage industries, according to the report from the National Employment Law Project (NELP).

The conclusion is pessimistic: The creation of mostly low-paid jobs had been seen as a short-term characteristic of the early recovery period, but in fact it's a persistent pattern.

The recession officially lasted from January 2008 through February 2010. During that time, 22 percent of the jobs lost were in lower-paid occupations, while 44 percent of the new jobs created since are lower-paid.

In contrast, 37 percent of jobs lost were mid-wage occupations, but only 26 percent of new jobs growth fall into that category.

And, 41 percent of the jobs lost were higher-wage, while only 30 percent of new jobs pay higher wages.

The report pegged lower-wage jobs as paying an hourly rate of $9.48 to $13.33 per hour, mid-wage jobs at $13.73 to $20 hourly, and higher-wage jobs at $20.03 to $32.62 hourly.

Low-paid jobs in food and drink services, administrative and support services and retail trade dominated private sector job growth during the recovery.

"As a result of unbalanced employment growth, the types of jobs available to unemployed workers, new labor market entrants, and individuals looking to move up the career ladder are distinctly different today than they were prior to the recession, " the report says.

The report did find some positive trends for jobs in specific fields. These included:

Professional, scientific and technical services. This category includes a wide range of professions, from lawyers and accountants to software developers and engineers. Job growth has been strong, though not as strong as in the recovery from the 2001 recession.

Education and health services proved relatively immune to the downturn, and they have added 13 percent more jobs since the recession.

Construction, durable goods manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing have shown strong job growth. But the job losses in these industries were so huge during the recession that they have yet to return to pre-recession levels of employment.

NELP is a research and advocacy group, based in New York.

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