Many economists have criticized news of the ongoing employment recovery, saying that growth has mostly been seen in low-paying jobs. A recent report from the National Employment Law Project showed that low-wage jobs have in fact been created more quickly in the last five years, but that trend may be changing. The study revealed that, in the last six months, employment in high-paying positions has finally begun to climb.
Between 2009 and 2013, the median hourly wage dropped 3.4 percent, according to NELP. Most of the impact was seen in jobs with lower wages. The median wage for positions making between $8.84 and $10.85 per hour dropped 4.3 percent, while for those with a pay of $10.86 to $14.42 per hour it declined 4.6 percent. Among the highest-paying jobs – those with an hourly pay of $31.40 to $86.34 – wages only fell 2.1 percent.
Even through the second half of 2013, jobs in low-wage occupations continued to dominate most employment opportunities. While pay was falling, low-wage jobs made up 41 percent of job growth between July of 2013 and 2014, while high-wage jobs accounted for 33 percent of employment growth. According to the report, this uneven growth has resulted in a loss of 1.2 million mid- and high-wage jobs since before the recession, and the addition of 2.3 million low-paying positions.
However, the pattern began to change in the first half of this year. Over the year, low-wage jobs are still the dominant area of growth, but counting only jobs gained in 2014, high-wage positions have taken over. According to the study, 40 percent of 2014's employment gains have been in high-paying jobs. Mid-wage jobs continue to lag behind, contributing just 21 percent of jobs gained in the last six months.
The Washington Post said that much of the growth in jobs with high wages – those with a median pay of at least $20 per hour – has come from the construction, manufacturing and professional services sectors.
"I often hear that the recovery is only in low-wage jobs. That is categorically inaccurate. This recovery is creating a lot of good jobs," Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez told the Post.
A slow climb
Sam Coffin, a UBS economist, told the Post that it's common for low-wage jobs to recover more quickly from a recession, but that high-wage positions have taken longer than usual to catch up. Generally the lead of low-wage jobs lasts around two years, compared to the five-year trend seen in the current recovery.