Job growth during recession has been well below what the economy needs it to be, unable to keep up with the rising population. And according to a report by the National Employment Law Project released Tuesday, the jobs that are being created tend to be lower-paying ones.
Sales, office clerks, cashiers, food preparation — these low-paying jobs grew 3.2% in the first quarter of 2011 over a year earlier. Higher-paying jobs, many of which require skills and a degree such as nursing, engineering, and finance, declined by 1.2%. What the report calls mid-wage positions — paralegals, customer service representatives, machinists — grew 1.2%.
Between the first quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2010, 60% of the jobs lost were mid-wage jobs, 21.3% were lower-wage jobs, and 18.7% were higher-wage jobs. Wages fell among the lowest-earning occupations while higher-paid employees who managed to keep their jobs actually saw a slight increase in their wages during the recession. While fewer higher-wage jobs were lost between the beginning of 2008 and 2010, those jobs have continued to decline over the last year.
The study outlines its three wage categories thusly: Those earning $7.51 to $13.51 an hour (in 2011 dollars) were considered lower-wage, those earning $13.53 to 20.66 an hour were considered mid-wage, and those earning $20.67 to $53.32 an hour were consider higher-wage. The NELP study, by focusing on wage rather than occupational categories, shows that middle-class jobs have been declining, which economists worry is widening the gap between the rich and the poor.