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Wages of Low-Wage Occupations Took Disproportionate Hit During Recovery, New Analysis Shows

U.S. leads developed nations in income inequality

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By: National Employment Law Project (NELP)

NEW YORK, NY, July 9, 2013 - Lower-wage and middle-wage jobs have seen significantly bigger declines in their inflation-adjusted wages during the recovery than higher-wage occupations,an analysis released Tuesday by the National Employment Law Project shows.

Averaged across all occupations, real median hourly wages fell by 2.8 percent from 2009 to 2012. The decrease was, however, more substantial at the bottom than at the top, with those individuals employed in low- and mid-wage occupations losing 3 percent or more on average.

Real median hourly wages dropped by 5% or more in five of the top 10 low-wage occupations: cooks, food prep workers, home health aides, personal care aides and maids and housekeepers.

Falling real wages come as labor productivity increased by 4.5 percent over the same period, while in 2012 capital's share of corporate income reached the highest point since the 1950s.

"Corporations are reaping the financial benefits of an increasingly productive workforce, but the recent decline in wages shows that these gains are not being shared with the people actually doing the work," said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project.

Over the thirty years prior to the recession, real wage gains and income growth accrued primarily to those at the very top, while lower-wage earners experienced stagnant or declining wages over much of this period. NELP's analysis of recent wage trends at the occupational level reaffirms the notion that workers in mid- and low-wage jobs continue to fall further behind.

"While persistent high unemployment likely explains some of the recent decline in real wages, recent losses are part of an alarming trend toward greater inequality and a shrinking share of economic pie going to those at the bottom," noted Owens. "The U.S. leads developed nations in income inequality, with the growth in inequality and economic disparities fueled by the declining real value of the minimum wage, the erosion union representation in public and private workplaces, and U.S. tax and trade policies that reward companies for shipping profits and jobs abroad, among other factors."

The National Employment Law Project is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts research and advocates on issues affecting low-wage and unemployed workers. For more about NELP, visit www.nelp.org.

 

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