American Job Trends Between 1979 and 2010

Rohan Mascarenhas, Russell Sage Foundation
March 9, 2012

The Foundation's U.S. 2010 project has released a new report on the major structural changes in the American economy between 1979 and 2010. Written by Harry Holzer and Marek Hlavac, the study includes data on labor market trends for the past decade and the Great Recession. Here are some of the report's main findings:

• In general, between 1979 and 2010, women and/or more-educated workers gained the most in earnings and employment while men and/or less-educated workers gained the least (or actually lost groundin some cases). Within these groups, workers at the top of the earnings distribution gained the most compared to those at the middle or bottom, reflecting dramatic increases in inequality.

• Dramatic decreases in employment in manufacturing and in production and clerical jobs, relative to higher and lower-paying categories, further reflect important structural shifts in the demand for labor. But significant employment growth in other industries (such as construction and health services) and occupations (such as technicians) indicate a still substantial middle of the job market exists for those with appropriate skills.

• Of the four recessions that occurred during these three decades, two were quite mild while the other two were quite severe – especially the Great Recession of 2008 and beyond. Very large increases in unemployment rates and durations have occurred in the recent downturn, and were experienced primarily by less-educated, younger and/or minority workers – who had already experienced relative declines in their earnings and employment over the past three decades.

Read the full report below:
A Very Uneven Road: U.S. Labor Markets in the Past 30 Years


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