Tracking the Low-Wage Recovery: Industry Employment & Wages

This report updates NELP’s previous industry-based analyses of job loss and job growth trends during and after the Great Recession. The report shows that low-wage job creation was not simply a characteristic of the early recovery, but rather a pattern that has persisted for more than four years now.

We find that during the labor market downturn (measured from January 2008 to February 2010), employment losses occurred throughout the economy, but were concentrated in mid-wage and higher-wage industries. By contrast, during the recovery (measured from February 2010 to February 2014), employment gains have been concentrated in lower-wage industries. Specifically:

  • 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.

Today, there are nearly two million fewer jobs in mid- and higher-wage industries than there were before the recession took hold, while there are 1.85 million more jobs in lower-wage industries.

Service-providing industries such as food services and drinking places, administrative and support services, and retail trade have led private sector job growth during the recovery. These industries, which pay relatively low wages, accounted for 39 percent of the private sector employment increase over the past four years.


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