The National Employment Law Project has examined employment trends since the Great Recession. Their findings are troublesome on two fronts: quantity and quality. They find that:
1. During the recession, employment losses occurred throughout the economy, but were concentrated in midwage occupations. By contrast, during the recovery, employment gains have been concentrated in lowerwage occupations, which grew 2.7 times as fast as mid-wage and higher-wage occupations. Specifically:
Lower-wage occupations were 21 percent of recession losses, but 58 percent of recovery growth.
Mid-wage occupations were 60 percent of recession losses, but only 22 percent of recovery growth.
Higher-wage occupations were 19 percent of recession job losses, and 20 percent of recovery growth.
2. The lower-wage occupations that grew the most during the recovery include retail salespersons, food preparation workers, laborers and freight workers, waiters and waitresses, personal and home care aides, and office clerks and customer representatives.
3. The unbalanced recession and recovery have meant that the long-term rise in inequality in the U.S. continues. The good jobs deficit is now deeper than it was at the start of the 21st century:
Since the first quarter of 2001, employment has grown by 8.7 percent in lower-wage occupations and by 6.6 percent in higher-wage occupations.
By contrast, employment in mid-wage occupations has fallen by 7.3.
4. Industry dynamics are playing an important role in shaping the unbalanced recovery. We find that three lowwage industries (food services, retail, and employment services) added 1.7 million jobs over the past two years, fully 43 percent of net employment growth. At the same time, better-paying industries (like construction; manufacturing; finance, insurance and real estate; and information) did not grow, or did not grow enough to make up for recession losses. Other better-paying industries (like professional and technical services) saw solid growth, but not in their mid-wage occupations. And steep cuts in state and local government have hit mid- and higher-wage occupations the hardest.
The National Employment Law Project. The Low-Wage Recovery and Growing Inequality. Data Brief: August 2012.