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Middle-Wage Jobs Make a Comeback

Since the end of the recession in 2009, the news has been grim for middle-income workers. Many middle-wage jobs disappeared during the Great Recession, while new jobs clustered in high- and low-earning professions. Now, a new analysis from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York indicates that things may be changing.
middle wage jobs
Image Credit: JD Hancock/Flickr

“Today, our economists will show that the tide has begun to turn,” said William C. Dudley, President and Chief Executive Officer of the New York Fed, at a press briefing on the regional economy in New York. “For the first time in quite a while, gains in middle-wage jobs actually outnumber gains in higher- and lower-wage jobs nationwide. These middle-wage jobs include teachers, construction workers, mechanics, administrative support personnel and truck drivers, just to name a few.”

Their data show that between 2013 and 2015, the economy added nearly 2.3 million jobs earning between $30,000 and $60,000 a year. Employers added about 1.5 million higher-paying jobs and 1.5 million lower-paying jobs during the same time.

This stands in sharp contrast to the previous period of the recovery; from 2010 to 2013, the economy added around 1.2 million middle-income jobs, and about 2.1 million higher paying jobs and 2.1 million lower-paying jobs.

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The Changing Job Market

It’s not all good news for middle-class and blue-collar workers, however.

“The advent of technology and the rise of globalization have changed the broader dynamics of the nation’s job market,” writes Ylan Q. Mui at The Washington Post. “Previous research by the New York Fed has found that in the three decades between 1980 and 2010, the number of high-skilled jobs doubled, and the jump in low-skilled jobs was nearly as large. The growth in middle-skilled jobs was significantly more subdued, with some regions in Fed’s district showing a net loss.”

In addition, Dudley notes that job creation in New York has shifted from finance to technology, “creating jobs in industries such as internet publishing, online shopping, and scientific research and development.”

That could have implications for workers outside of tech. The PayScale Index’s update for Q2 2016 showed wage growth in tech hubs, despite below-average gains for tech jobs.

“Annual wage growth for IT jobs has actually been slightly below the national average in the first half of 2016,” said Katie Bardaro, VP of Data Analytics and Lead Economist at PayScale. “However, as more organizations use increasing amounts of data, data-centric jobs are in high demand and appear to be driving wages up in the technology centers such as Seattle and San Francisco.”

Bottom line, the economy and the job market may have changed for good during the recession and recovery. However, if middle-class jobs continue to rebound, and especially if wages follow, many workers might be willing to get used a new normal.

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Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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