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REPORT: Majority of Job Growth Is in Low-Wage Jobs

September 6, 2012

In a new brief that analyzes trends in job loss and job growth during the Great Recession, the National Employment Law Project (NELP) found that during the recovery period, employment gains in low-wage occupations, such as personal and home care aides, have significantly outpaced those in mid-wage and higher-wage occupations — increasing the deficit of “good jobs.”

In The Low-Wage Recovery and Growing Inequality (pdf), the researchers report that while low-wage occupations account for 21 percent of the jobs lost during the recession (2008-2010), they comprise as much as 58 percent of the recovery growth (2010-2012), which is 2.7 times as fast as the mid-wage and higher-wage occupations.

The majority of employment losses were concentrated in mid-wage occupations (60 percent), but these jobs only accounted for 22 percent of recovery growth.

Higher-wage occupations account for 19 percent of jobs lost during the recession and a comparable job growth during the recovery (20 percent).

With the “unbalanced” recession and recovery, the “good jobs deficit is now deeper than it was at the start of the 21st century,” the authors explain.

While restoring job growth to pre-recession levels is “understandably [an] urgent” goal for policymakers, “our findings underscore that job quality is rapidly emerging as a second front in the struggling recovery,” they conclude.

PHI Remedy Published in N.Y. Times

The New York Times covered the report in an August 30 article entitled, “Majority of New Jobs Pay Low Wages, Study Finds.”

In a published letter to the editor in response to that article, PHI President Jodi Sturgeon offered a remedy to the paucity of good jobs.

“In the absence of good jobs, make bad jobs better,” Sturgeon recommends. “In addition to the building ladders for the few, raise the floor for many.”

PHI, along with the John A. Hartford Foundation and F.B. Heron Foundation, elaborated (pdf) the case for “making bad jobs better” in the May issue of the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

— by Deane Beebe

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