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Middle-wage earners accounted for 60 percent of losses in the recession, and most of them are still job hunting.
ON THE MOST basic
Coming out of the 1990 and 2001 recessions, public sector jobs rose. Not this time.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, the public sector has lost 627,000 jobs since June of 2009.
And it's worse than that. If you take into account that the U.S. population grew by 6.9 million in that period and that there were 7.3 public-sector workers per 100 people three years ago, then the public sector should have added about 505,000 jobs, making the total job public sector job loss about 1.1 million. (That 7.3 per 100 ratio, by the way, has stayed pretty much constant since the 1980s.)
Most of the cutting
Local and state governments opt to make cuts instead of raising taxes, the T-word being anathema to politicians everywhere.
So, 1.1 million more public-sector workers would bring us only to what has been, since the 1980s, normal--not padding government payrolls, just normal.
Consider, too, the effect of lost public-sector jobs on the private sector.
According to the EPI, research shows that every public-sector job lost costs roughly 0.43 supplier jobs.
It's nice that state and local governments are toeing the line, making the tough decisions, etc., etc.
The figures above, though, make you wonder if all that budget-slashing is really doing much, if any, good.
MORE ABOUT JOBS
If you needed any more reminders that the middle class is disappearing, there's this:
The National Employment Law Project has gauged the growth (or shrinkage) of jobs during the Great Recession (first quarter of 2008 to first quarter of 2010) and since (first quarter of 2010 to first quarter of 2012).
Lower-wage occupations (defined as those where the median hourly wages were $7.89 to $13.83 per hour) were 21 percent of recession losses but 58 percent of the recovery growth.
Middle-wage occupations (median of $13.84 to $21.13 per hour) were 60 percent of recession losses but only 22 percent of recovery growth.
Higher-wage occupations (median of $21.14 to $54.55) were 19 percent of recession losses and 20 percent of recovery growth.
In other words, a greatly disproportionate percentage of new jobs are at the low end of the wage scale. (Lower-wage sectors with the biggest growth were retail sales and food preparation workers.)
So many government positions fall in the middle-class range that it is hard not to conclude that the slashing of government jobs is a big factor in this trend.
This has been going on throughout the 21st century, NELP reports. Since New Year's Day 2001, employment has grown by 8.7 percent in low-wage occupations and 6.6 in higher-wage occupations. It has shrunk 7.3 percent in mid-wage occupations.
The Great Recession and its aftermath have only made it worse.
Business Editor Howard Owen writes this biweekly column on business and the economy. He can be reached at 540/374-5539 or howen@freelance star.com.