The missing middle of the U.S. jobs recovery

The missing middle of the U.S. jobs recovery

In my new The Week column, I criticize a recent conservative policy memo for taking a narrow, limited view of US economic problems: “It bemoans the Not-So-Great Recovery. But there is no suggestion the economy faces longer-term problems that predate Obamanomics.”

One of those challenges is job polarization and the disappearance of middle-skill, middle-wage jobs–as reflected in the above chart–driven by the impact of technology and globalization on routine tasks that are well defined and easily codified. Now although those data only go through 2010, an update by the New York Fed suggests the trend continues, at least for the NY-NJ region:

Although employment has now returned to levels seen prior to the Great Recession in the nation and in much of the region, the types of jobs created during the recovery are not the same as those that were lost during the recession. It turns out that during the recession, the vast majority of jobs that were lost in the nation and across the region were middle-skill jobs, such as construction workers, teachers, machine operators, and administrative support workers. … What have grown are higher-skilled jobs—such as engineers, computer programmers, doctors, and financial analysts—and lower-skilled jobs—such as food service workers, retail clerks, health care aides, and child care workers.

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