New York Times
The report by the National Employment Law Project, a liberal research and advocacy group, found that while 60 percent of the jobs lost during the downturn were in midwage occupations, 73 percent of the jobs added since the recession ended had been in lower-wage occupations, like cashier, stocking clerk or food preparation worker.
According to the report, “The Good Jobs Deficit,” the number of jobs in midwage and high-wage occupations remains significantly below the prerecession peak, while the number of jobs in lower-wage occupations has climbed back close to its former peak.
“During the Great Recession, employment losses occurred across the board, but were concentrated in midwage occupations,” the report said. “But in the weak recovery to date, employment growth has been concentrated in lower-wage occupations, with minimal growth in midwage occupations and net losses in higher-wage occupations.”
The report gives additional ammunition to those who argue, like David Autor, an economics professor at M.I.T., that there is a distinct hollowing out of the middle. It found that the number of jobs in midwage occupations remained 8.4 percent below the prerecession peak, while jobs in higher-wage occupations remained 4.1 percent below and lower-wage jobs were just 0.3 percent below their former peak.
The report divides the nation’s occupations into equal thirds: lower-wage, midwage and higher-wage. It found that during the downturn, the nation lost 3.9 million jobs in midwage occupations, while losing 1.4 million in lower-wage occupations and 1.2 million in higher-wage ones. The report said that of the net employment losses during the recession, 60 percent were in midwage occupations, while 21.3 percent were in lower-wage occupations and 18.7 percent in higher-wage ones.
Since the recession ended, the report said there had been a 1.7 million increase in the number of jobs in low-wage and midwage occupations, with low-wage jobs accounting for nearly three-quarters of that. But the number of jobs in high-wage occupations has declined by 461,994 since the recession ended (from first quarter 2010 to first quarter 2011).
“We should emphasize that it is too early in the recovery to predict whether these trends will continue,” the report said.
The report found that real wages had shown “a mild decline” since the recession began, of 0.6 percent. For workers in lower-wage occupations, median wages fell 2.3 percent after inflation — partly because many of the newer workers hired had lower wages than others in that group. For workers in midwage occupations, wages slipped by 0.9 percent, while there was some good news for workers in higher-wage occupations — their wages rose by 0.9 percent.
The report said the biggest job losses among higher-wage occupations came among managers, computer scientists and systems analysts, human resources workers, registered nurses and accountants and auditors.
The report was written by Annette Bernhardt, policy co-director of the National Employment Law Project. It said lower-wage occupations were those with median hourly ranges of $7.51 to $13.52 an hour (translating to $15,621 to $28,122 a year for a full-time worker), midwage occupations were $13.53 to $20.66 an hour ($28,142 to $42,973 for yearly full time) and high-wage occupations had median hourly ranges of $20.67 to $53.32 ($42,994 to $110,906 for yearly full time).