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Economic shift

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The government’s monthly unemployment report routinely includes data on the number of new jobs created with reference to the sectors of the economy seeing job growth. While an encouraging sign of recovery, the information often overlooks the nature of the new jobs that has a long-term impact on the economy and well-being of Americans as pointed out in an op-ed piece by Mortimer Zuckerman, chairman and editor in chief of U.S. News & World Report.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Zuckerman makes the distinction between job quantity and job quality. The majority of new jobs created since the recession — 58 percent of them — are low-wage occupations and within that number tend to be part-time work. The remaining 42 percent of recovery growth is about equally split between mid-wage and high-wage occupations.

Among the lower-wage occupations seeing job growth are retail salespersons, food-preparation workers, home- and personal-care aides, laborers, waiters and waitresses, and office clerks. At the same time, pay for low-wage and mid-wage jobs has declined about 2 percent in the past year.

Americans, he writes, “face a disastrous new normal: For the first time, the U.S. economy has shifted in the direction of a part-time, low-wage work force.” It will also see a shift in the nature of American society.

“When low-wage jobs are growing in number, mid-wage jobs are disappearing and higher-wage jobs are paying more, the result is a hollowed-out middle class,” Mr. Zuckerman wrote.

The long-range outlook is more growth in jobs in low-wage industries or occupations with “employers increasingly offering part-time work of nominally full-time jobs with lower wages and fewer benefits.” Obamacare may encourage that trend with its requirement that some employers provide health insurance to full-time workers.

Low-wage, part-time jobs can limit social mobility and force more Americans to depend on the government safety net, putting further pressure on the federal government to maintain programs. The economic stagnation could see hardworking, financially strapped Americans fall into a lower standard of living that makes the American Dream harder to reach.

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