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April 28, 2014 4:43 PM Bad New Jobs

By Ed Kilgore

Everyone sort of knows that the new jobs being created in the economic “recovery” aren’t for the most part high-paying gigs. But the extent to which wages are deteriorating via job replacement is worth noting in some vivid detail (per a report from Wonkblog’s Emily Badger):

[E]mployment is coming back, but so much of it is not good employment. According to a new analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the industries responsible for the most job creation over the last four years are also the industries that pay the least.
We’re talking about jobs pushing retail (that’s a $10.37 median hourly wage), answering phones ($13.33) and serving dinner ($9.48). Together, these three industries — retail, administrative/support and food and drink services — account for 39 percent of the gains in private-sector employment since the recovery ostensibly began four years ago, according to the analysis by the National Employment Law Project….
Low-wage industries accounted for 22 percent of the jobs lost during the recession from 2008 to 2010. But they’ve accounted for 44 percent of the employment growth since then, for a net growth of about 1.85 million jobs. That means that the economy we have today is skewed more heavily than it was pre-recession toward the kind of employment that may not even cover basic housing costs.
This patterns differs from what we saw after the last downturn in the early 2000s. As NELP points out, low- and high-wage industries were responsible after the 2001 recession for roughly equal shares of job growth. Now that’s clearly no longer the case, with bleak implications for less-skilled workers hoping to steer away from food service jobs.

It ought to be obvious that these patterns, if they persist, will add growing momentum to inequality of income and wealth. It’s time to change the direction of the economy, and change the debate over growth and employment. Even if we reach what counts as full employment these days, we can go on perpetually with ever-greater consolidation of the rewards for hard work at and towards the top of the scale. .

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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