Jobs with mid-range pay, such as construction, haven't rebounded yet.
While the majority of jobs lost during the downturn were in the mid-range of wages, the majority of those added during the recovery have been low-paying, according to a new report from the National Employment Law Project.
The disappearance of midwage, midskill jobs is part of a longer-term trend that some call a hollowing out of the workforce, though it has probably been accelerated by government layoffs.
"The overarching message here is we don't just have a jobs deficit; we have a 'good jobs' deficit," said Annette Bernhardt, the report's author and a policy co-director at the National Employment Law Project, a liberal research and advocacy group.
The report looked at 366 occupations tracked by the Labor Department, and clumped them into three groups by wage, with each representing a third of U.S. employment in 2008. The middle third -- in fields like construction, manufacturing and information with median hourly wages of $13.84 to $21.13 -- accounted for 60 percent of job losses from the beginning of 2008 to early 2010. The job market has turned around since then, but those categories have represented only 22 percent of job growth.
Lower-wage occupations, with median hourly wages of $7.69 to $13.83, accounted for 21 percent of job losses during the retraction. Since employment started expanding again, they have accounted for 58 percent of job growth.
Some of these new, lower-paying jobs are being taken by people entering the labor force. Many, though, are being filled by older workers who lost more lucrative jobs in the recession and were forced to take something to scrape by.
This "polarization" of skills and wages has been documented by David H. Autor, an economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A recent study found that this polarization has accelerated in the last three recessions -- particularly the last one -- as financial pressures forced companies to restructure more quickly.