During the Great Recession, the jobs we lost were concentrated in mid-wage occupations like paralegals, health technicians, administrative assistants and bus drivers, making $15 to $20 an hour. But so far in this weak recovery, employment growth has largely come from low-wage occupations like retail workers, office and stock clerks, restaurant staff and child care aids – most making $8 to $10 an hour. There has been only minimal growth in mid-wage occupations, and net losses in those that pay higher.
The crisis began even before the onset of the Great Recession. Between 2001 and 2008, Bernhardt notes, mid-wage occupations constituted only 6 percent of net job gains. Bernhardt outlines some possible solutions:
There are plenty of ideas out there: rebuilding and modernizing America’s infrastructure, incubating green jobs sectors, creating universal pre-K, sending more fiscal relief to the states to avoid lay-offs, and more. We can also strengthen the wage floor by raising the minimum wage and putting more resources towards fighting wage theft, an endemic problem in low-wage service industries.
Read the whole essay here.