Three years ago, Annette Bernhardt at the National Employment Law Project concluded in a white paper that during the first phase of the economic recovery from the Great Recession, most of the jobs being added were in lower-wage categories than the jobs that were lost. Now, NELP's Mike Evangelist has updated her analysis through February 2014 and found that the same situation holds in the current phase, as can be seen in the chart above.
What he found was that the rate of the current recovery, which has added 8.9 million private-sector jobs in the past four years, has been stronger than the so-called "jobless recovery" of the 2001 recession. But post-Great Recession job growth has been more concentrated in work that doesn't pay as well. The kinds of jobs that can be obtained by the unemployed, by new entrants into the labor market (such as high school and college graduates) and by people seeking to move up the career ladder "are distinctly different today than they were prior to the recession."
So what's the job gains terrain look like?
• Lower-wage industries accounted for 22 percent of job losses during the recession, but 44 percent of employment growth over the past four years. Today, lower-wage industries employ 1.85 million more workers than at the start of the recession.Take a look at just one arena, that of well-paid blue-collar jobs, which took huge hits during the Great Recession. Employment in transportation and warehousing just barely exceeds the pre-recession peak. In manufacturing of durable goods and the wholesale trade, the number of jobs remains far below peak levels. In construction, employment is 20 percent below the peak. Meanwhile, in the lower-paying food services and drinking establishments industry, there have been three times as many jobs gained as were lost during the recession.
• Mid-wage industries accounted for 37 percent of job losses, but 26 percent of recent employment growth. There are now 958,000 fewer jobs in mid-wage industries than at the start of the recession.
• Higher-wage industries accounted 41 percent of job losses, but 30 percent of recent employment growth. There are now 976,000 fewer jobs in higher-wage industries than at the start of the recession.