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Report: Lower-Wage Jobs Continue To Grow, Mid- And Higher-Wage Jobs Lag Behind

Economy Memo Pad

Report: Lower-Wage Jobs Continue To Grow, Mid- And Higher-Wage Jobs Lag Behind


A new report by the National Employment Law Project reveals the slow and ongoing jobs recovery that the private sector has experienced since the 2008 recession, and underscores the notion that an economic recovery has not yet been fully achieved.

As the NELP report notes, in the months leading up to the 2008 financial crisis and the months that immediately followed, “employment losses occurred throughout the economy, but were concentrated in mid-wage and higher-wage industries.” Specifically, 3,579 higher-wage private sector jobs were lost at the time of the crisis, accounting for an overwhelming 41 percent of total job losses. An additional 3,240 mid-wage private sector jobs — accounting for 37 percent of the total losses — were lost at the same time.

Significantly fewer low-wage jobs, however, were lost during the same period. NELP reports only 1,973 lost lower-wage jobs in 2008 – accounting for 22 percent of job losses during the Great Recession.

Since 2008, private-sector employment has experienced job growth in all three wage industries — but low-wage industries have seen the greatest, and quickest, recovery.

According to the NELP report, lower-wage industries — which employ 1.85 million more workers today than at the start of the 2008 recession — now account for 44 percent of the jobs gained since 2009.

Higher-wage industries now account for only 30 percent of job gains since 2009, despite accounting for the highest number of lost jobs. Mid-wage industries are experiencing the slowest recovery, comprising only 26 percent of the job gains made over the past four years.

In total, there are now 2 million fewer jobs in mid- and higher-wage industries than there were prior to the recession.

NELP explains that in 2009, slow economic growth could be attributed to “specific drivers of the Great Recession” — such as the housing bubble collapse and the financial crisis “as well as a continuation of the long-term decline in durable and nondurable manufacturing and telecommunications.” Consequently, lower-wage industries, like the foodservice industry, were less affected by the complex factors that contributed to the financial crisis and overall recession than their better-paid counterparts.

While lower-wage industries recover, though, higher-wage and mid-wage industries’ slow job gains have larger, negative implications that lower-wage jobs growth cannot reverse or counter. Hence, even as mid- and higher-wage industries continue to create and add jobs, the rate is not fast enough to fill overall employment deficits.

Though these latest numbers serve as further evidence that a full economic recovery is still a few years away, they also offer a silver lining; according to NELP, “private-sector employment has increased for 49 months,” resulting in employment levels finally reaching their previous peak — which was just before the 2008 economic crisis. Moreover, this recovery has not only been quicker than that which occurred following the 2001 recession, but it has also resulted in stronger employment gains in the private sector.

And despite the slow pace of its recovery, the private sector is still responsible for all employment growth since 2009. As private sector industries have steadily added jobs, the public sector has continued to report job losses. NELP reports that government employment declined by 627,000 jobs over the past four years — a loss that made it more difficult for the private sector to add more jobs during the recovery period.

Ultimately, NELP concludes that a pattern exists, as evidenced by the 2001 and 2008 crises and the subsequent recoveries: When the labor market suffers, mid- and higher-wage industries are hit hardest. And as the economy recovers, the lower-wage industries recover more quickly.

Chart via National Employment Law Project



  1. disqus_ivSI3ByGmh April 29, 2014

    If people like the Koch brothers had there way, everyone would have low wage jobs.

    1. paulyz April 29, 2014

      And if Soros had his way, we would all have the same income, regardless of what we did. Wonder who would go through all the costs and sacrifice to become a Doctor or Engineer??

      p.s. Obama had 6 years of his policies and mostly Democrat Control & this is the kind of “recovery” we get?

      1. Allan Richardson April 29, 2014

        Total falsehood. Even the REAL Communists (USSR, China pre-Nixon, Castro’s Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam) never said that everyone should have the same income, except possibly in their far-off “millennium time.” Liberals in democratic capitalist countries are NOTHING like real Communists, despite the right wing lies claiming they are ever since the 1920s. People SHOULD have higher incomes if they work hard and follow society’s rules, still higher if they are also talented (and work hard), and still higher if they accumulate capital. The goal is not equality of income, but equity, or fairness, and a working economy, which requires SOME redistribution to avoid stagnation like the Great Depression (just as an aquarium requires an aerating pump). Any statement to the contrary is NOT a fact. This is not a matter of opinion; it is a falsehood just as Aristotelian astronomy with epicycles, or the phlogiston explanation for fire, is a falsehood.

        What right wing extremists call a desire for “total equality” is the belief that, although unequal incomes are fine, the LOWEST income level should STILL be enough for a reasonably safe, healthy and comfortable life, AND enough to provide the MEANS for oneself and one’s children to move up. That was the case for a few of our ancestors when the republic was founded, and for MANY MORE once the “socialist” New Deal was enacted (without which many right wing internet trolls would instead be jobless and homeless, despite their willingness to work hard).

        When President Obama has been blocked at every turn by an opposition party that apparently does NOT see itself in the Anglo-American role of “loyal opposition” but in the role of the ONLY truly “American” party, painting the Democrats as anti-American demons, and when the ONLY time their obstruction could be overcome was the few weeks of House majority combined with filibuster-proof Senate super majority before Scott Brown took his seat as the 41st Republican, the actual CONTROL has been in the hands of extreme right wing zealots who would rather RUIN the United States so they could control what was left than to BUILD UP the United States lest a Democrat, or worse a half-black Democrat with a foreign name, get partial credit.

        The private sector’s WORST moral examples have been in control and they do not WANT a good paying job recovery, because they are ONLY interested in impoverishing every American except their own group, so that they can have total feudal control. And they use buzzwords such as “freedom” to mean, as the Red Queen said to Alice, “exactly what I choose them to mean.”

        The word “freedom” for them means “I can run my business as carelessly and as irresponsibly and as immorally as I want, and no public authority should be able to stop me, and I should be able to escape the consequences, criminal or civil, of any harm done to anyone else by accident or by strategic design.” And for the rest of us, their “freedom” means “I can try to get by despite what the freedom of the one percent does to me or my family and friends, but good luck being able to do so.”

        Paulyz himself will believe none of this because “his paycheck depends on his not believing it,” but anyone who is tempted to believe his reckless charges should investigate, starting but not ending with a plain old middle school history book, the points I have made.

  2. Zere Ochs April 30, 2014

    Fact: More debt was run up in Hussein Obama’s first four years of office than under the first 42 Presidents combined.

  3. Budjob April 30, 2014

    As long as the oil companies,banks,and the pharmaceutical industries are gouging the American public,economic recovery will be minimal at best. What is needed is,individuals in congress to grow a set of balls and hold their feet to the fire! If any politician in D.C. wants to know what a set of balls look like,I’ll take a picture of mine and sent it to them.What a conglomeration of worthless bastards!!


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