An Unbalanced Recovery: Real Wage and Job Growth Trends

Throughout the recovery, NELP has been tracking job growth by industry and occupation, and documenting the disparate decline in wages across occupations.

This report updates two NELP analyses on the decline in occupational wages since 2009 and the nature of private sector job creation in this recovery.

We find that, averaged across all occupations, real median hourly wages declined by 3.4 percent from 2009 to 2013. Lower- and mid-wage occupations experienced greater declines in their real wages than did higher-wage occupations (see Figure 1, below).

We further find that, despite the recent acceleration in job gains in higher-wage industries during the first half of 2014, job growth over the past year (and in the recovery overall) has been unbalanced, with especially pronounced gains at the bottom and slow growth in mid-wage industries (see Figure 2, below). Specifically:

  • Lower-wage industries constituted 41 percent of job growth from July 2013 to July 2014.
  • Mid-wage industries constituted 26 percent of job growth from July 2013 to July 2014.
  • Higher-wage industries constituted 33 percent of job growth from July 2013 to July 2014.

Today, there are approximately 1.2 million fewer jobs in mid- and higher-wage industries than there were prior to the recession, while there are 2.3 million more jobs in lower-wage industries. During the labor market downturn of January 2008 to February 2010, job losses occurred throughout the economy but were concentrated in mid- and higher-wage industries, according to NELP’s earlier analyses.

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