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CPBJ Extra Blog

Job numbers tell 'recovery' story

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The old saying “the devil is in the details” is certainly true when considering our current run of job growth.

To hear some tell the story — often a candidate running for re-election — job growth is leading the recovery at a slow but steady pace.

A new analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data just might explain why the recovery is seemingly moving slower than a teenager sent to clean his room. In fact, fresh data out this week indicate the “recovery” may be grinding to a halt. More on that in a minute.

According to the BLS, the bulk of new job creation is coming via industries that pay the least. You probably know someone who has taken a job (or maybe a second job) in retail (with a $10.37 median hourly wage), answering phones ($13.33) and/or as a food server ($9.48).

The National Employment Law Project crunched the numbers and found these three industries — retail, administrative/support and food and drink services — account for 39 percent of the gains in private-sector employment over the past four years.

NELP explained the job loss numbers:

• Lower-wage industries constituted 22 percent of recession losses, but 44 percent of recovery growth.

• Mid-wage industries constituted 37 percent of recession losses, but only 26 percent of recovery growth.

• Higher-wage industries constituted 41 percent of recession losses, and 30 percent of recovery growth.

The result is nearly 2 million fewer jobs in mid- and higher-wage industries than before the recession took hold, while there are 1.85 million more jobs in lower-wage industries.

NELP noted major differences between the most recent recession and the 2001 downturn, when lower- and higher-wage jobs grew equally during the 2002-03 recovery phase. We pulled out of that one very nicely, leading to several years of prosperity. It isn’t trending that way this time.

The nation’s gross domestic product expanded at a meager 0.1 percent annual rate in the first quarter — well below the forecasts for 1.2 percent growth. Economists blamed weaker exports, a decline in business investment and cuts in state and local government spending.

That last one caught my eye.

Looking at the data, it isn’t hard to see where the missing jobs are. Local, state and federal government jobs account for 627,000 lost jobs since the recovery began.

A lot of the government jobs were the result of spending cuts made to avoid raising taxes. I can’t blame politicians for running from tax increases during difficult economic times, but these austerity measures might be doing more harm than good.

What do you see in these numbers? Is the “recovery” real in your community?

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