Yes, the United States is $93 billion short of a real economic recovery. That deficiency represents the difference between the annual wages of jobs lost during the Great Recession and the pay of jobs gained during the subsequent economic recovery. The United States Conference of Mayors — a nonpartisan group comprised of the head officials for the 1,400 cities across America with populations of more than 30,000 — found in a recent study that the average annual wage in industries that lost jobs during the recession was $61,637, but the average for new jobs gained through the second-quarter of 2014 was a little more than $47,000, meaning that although the country has regained the jobs that were lost during the recession, those jobs pay 23 percent less on average than they did prior to the recession. That accounts for more than $93 billion in lost wages, the lion’s share of which has been transferred to the top percent of United States income earners. The study provided an important analysis of the widening income gap in the country and growing inequality.
That data must be factored into the narrative of the ever more positive jobs recovery. Sure, Americans worry about job security, lower wages, the possibility of reduced hours or benefits, but the important fact is that fewer than one in five United States full- and part-time workers currently worry they will be laid off in the near future, a 29 percent increase from last August. That decrease marks a return of worker confidence to levels last seen in the years prior to the 2008 financial collapse. At the same time, Americans’ economic confidence is oscillating in moderately negative territory, with assessments of current conditions coming in slightly higher than future economic outlooks. To Gallup, the minor variations in sentiment are still indicative of a common theme of improvement, especially when considering other economic indicators as well. For example, last month, Gallup’s Job Creation Index reached a six-year high.
Wage stagnation, mediocre but stable economic confidence, growing confidence in job security, and job creation weave together the backstory for the Department of Labor’s key emerging unemployment data and payroll growth figures.