Vanishing Mid-Wage Jobs Are Choking the Life Out of the Middle Class

The recession that followed the financial crisis has taken its toll on every part of the economy, but it has hit employment especially hard -- causing the unemployment rate to skyrocket to 10% in 2009 from 4.6% just two years earlier. Eight million jobs have disappeared, many of which did not require a college diploma.

But the occupational sector that has seen the worst decline is that of middle-skill jobs, those which have historically paid between approximately $14.00 and $21.00 per hour. Sixty percent of positions with this mid-wage pay scale were lost during the Great Recession, and have rebounded by only 27% since the recession ended -- and their loss is decimating the middle class.

Employment gap keeps widening
The Associated Press recently noted that the unemployment rate for Americans making under $20,000 annually sits at 21%, compared with the 3.2% attributed to those making at least $150,000 per year -- the widest spread in a decade. Part of the reason for this phenomenon is that the dearth of mid-wage jobs is forcing workers into lower-paid occupations -- an effect known as "job polarization."

While the recession sped up the process of polarization, the issue has been apparent for years. Over the past 30 years, economists have noted that the economy has steadily offered more opportunities for high-skilled and low-skilled workers, to the detriment of the middle-skilled.

Where are these jobs going?
Many middle-skill jobs, such as sales, office administration, production, and repair work, are often considered routine -- and easily automated or moved offshore. Usually, they require training beyond high school, but not a four-year college degree. While 25% of the working population was employed in these kinds of jobs in 1985, only about 15% held these types of positions by 2012.

Those suffering the most from the employment gap tend to be younger workers. As mid-wage jobs vanished, many older workers retrained to move up into high-skilled jobs, and high school graduates moved into the workforce, rather than attending college. This placed them smack dab into low-skilled work, while their college-bound peers studied. Unfortunately, even young workers with college degrees have moved more quickly into low-wage jobs than older workers.

Mid-wage jobs: Going, but not gone
Economists have shown that recessions are mid-wage job killers, as most jobs lost come from that sector, which never really seems to recover post-downturn. Still, middle-skill jobs do exist, and employers are looking to fill them.

For example, after slashing its work force by more than 50% during the recession, the auto industry is looking to fill 140,000 positions over the next few years, most of them mid-wage. In addition, employment firm Manpower notes that some of the toughest jobs to find candidates for last year were sales representatives, machine operators, and drivers -- to name a few.

States are letting the public know that mid-wage job openings are just waiting for candidates to fill them. Massachusetts predicts decent job growth through 2016 for paralegals, physical therapist assistants, and dental hygienists, and Maryland sees sunny days ahead for electricians, plumbers, and other skilled tradespeople -- and is offering to help interested applicants train for those occupations.

Probably, this is the best way to match up applicants with middle-skills jobs: state by state, through public-private partnerships that not only advertise that the jobs are available, but also help job seekers obtain training.

Mid-wage positions are shrinking, but there are some occupations, like those in health care and the building trades, that are never going to go away. With some of these jobs paying as much as $72,000 annually -- in Maryland, at least -- they are worth seeking out.

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  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2013, at 11:16 AM, bobthegoodone wrote:

    Seems to me these free trade agreements are killing this country ! We ship out these jobs to countries where slave labor is the norm while the prices for these goods stays the same or goes up ! I guess the Bush administration was successful as we have shipped millions of manufacturing jobs out and replaced them with service jobs all paying minimum wager congrats

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2013, at 11:34 AM, wakeup123 wrote:

    great to see that someone notices respectfully your 8 to 10 years to late middle class jobs have been gone for quite some time in my small world of chicago.

    The only ones left are the trades that are unionized and still strong pipe fitters electricians and plumbers and some carpentry work.

    Manufaturing is gone whats left hires exploited latin temporary workers offers no benifits and pays very little.

    If the middle class ever wakes up look out the anger will overwhelm all of us and then the gop and the dems will get kicked out of congress but only if a viable alternative group steps up to govern with common sense equal minded values.other wise you just elected another special interest group which may be worse than the crazies we have now..

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2013, at 11:39 AM, boomup wrote:

    Hey bob Quit blaming bush , who bailed out gm so they could build jeeps in China? Wasn't Clinton behind nafta

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2013, at 12:43 PM, davidzzz wrote:

    Hillary/Davis 2016 16 Years!! Yea!!!!!

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2013, at 1:15 PM, DaSky wrote:

    Thanks for the fundamental neo-Marxist transformation of America President Obama!

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2013, at 1:21 PM, imDanielle2 wrote:

    Bush policies at their best.. He kept giving more tax breaks to the rich and ignored that they were taking more and more money while shipping our jobs out of the country. Also replying to "Boomup", the auto-industry collapse happened during the Bush era as well.. it was our current President who stepped up and saved the auto-industry.. Just as the article stated.. The auto-industry is booming and adding more jobs again this year.. But why is it FORD just built 3 new factories in Mexico to build F-Series trucks slated for sale in the U.S. .. The Jeep comment you posted in your comment has been proven to be totally false and proves you get your false information from FUX News!

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2013, at 1:24 PM, charlestonpaul wrote:

    400 people in the US have more net worth than the other 300 million.

    George Bailey: "Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about... they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn't think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they're cattle."

    Speaking as one of the cattle, I realize that the 1% control politics, the laws and the media, as soon as I posted the "1%" you made me out to be a nut, nice job media, but it they don't pay their FAIR share of taxes and create meaningful jobs then this country is headed to socialism.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2013, at 1:54 PM, dwduke wrote:

    I live in Michigan and am a tool and die maker. I make very good money and works lots of overtime and live very comfortably. There is a dire shortage of die makers and wages are going up because of the shortage. Michigan is a right to work state, and businesses are setting up ship especially on the west side of the state. Lots of work for anyone wanting to make good money and work hard. It doesn’t bother me. No shame in getting dirty, but lots of pride in learning the new technology on die build. There is a shortage of apprentices, and us older die makers are going to be retiring soon. So if you are mechanically inclined and like challenges, and making good money as a skilled tradesman, think about getting a job in a shop in Michigan. I still like my job since I was in it for 30 years, but it is time to retire. I have been blessed with my choice in trade and have no shame for getting dirty, and accomplishing what sometimes seems impossible. Now days the auto business is global and my shop builds dies from all the worlds automakers. So it isn't just American made tools and dies we make. No union in my shop as well, which helps tremendously in flexibility as the trades keep modernizing and it is far more productive.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2013, at 3:24 PM, mickelea wrote:

    There is an even worse trend occurring today in large corporations. Where it once was mainly IT and Call Center jobs that were offshored the executives are now sending beginning accounting and finance job levels that require bachelor degrees (BA/BS) offshore to New Delhi in India, Manila in Phillipines, Bogota in Columbia and Shanghi. And they wonder why college grads can't find entry level positions out of college. Next will be the Supervisors, Managers and Directors levels. When you pay other workers in other countries 10% of what the American worker makes it's a no brainer. I know this for a fact as I work for a multinational company that is currently doing this and will be notifying the people impacted in December that their jobs will be gone in six months in addition to letting others go that are non-offshore. The company makes billions in profits and was even given bailout money. This is why the middle classes of other countries are doing so well. Too bad we can't offshore executive positions. Merry Xmas to the struggling Middle Class Americans.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2013, at 4:29 PM, airjackie wrote:

    This should be no surprise to voters as the Tea Party and even Republicans said this in 2009 and the mission is to wipe out the Middle Class. Look how many times did Mitt Romney have to say the US should be a two class system of rich and poor. The US started with wealthy citizens from England and then poor Brits came and got property. Slaves made the Plantation owners wealthy and people want those days back. The push is to replace the US Constitution with the Confederate Constitution..

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2013, at 4:43 PM, emal2me wrote:

    You mean people are just now noticing?

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2013, at 5:18 PM, Paparayno wrote:

    Yup outsourcing and offshoring is the trend to continue and the middle class in developing countries will continue to grow but not here or on Western Europe. Medical , dental and retirement will be the next trend for outsourcing and off shoring to reduce these costs here. There exists boutique hospitals in asia that caters to overseas people looking for cheaper medical and dental procedures. Corporations will chase profits and cheap labor. When labor gets expensive in asian developing countries, jobs will not come back either cause the workers there are young mobile educated multilingual and HUNGRY. Young Americans need to immigrate and pursue the Global Dream. Forget the American Dream. Follow the money and go East young man.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2013, at 5:28 PM, FoxNusRTraitors wrote:

    Manufacturing employment from the BLS

    Jan 1993 16,791,000 Clinton takes office, manufacturing is stable for 8 years

    Jan 2001 17,112,000 Bush takes office, cuts taxes and regs, manufacturing begins fall

    Jan 2005 14,261,000 Manufacturing in free-fall under Bush even before recession begins

    Jan 2009 12,552,000 Bush leaves office, Obama takes office

    Jun 2009 11,725,000 Bush Recession declared ended, stimulus spending begins

    Aug 2013 11,963,000 Currently manufacturing is stable again under Obama

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2013, at 5:30 PM, FoxNusRTraitors wrote:

    Manufacturing fell from 16% of GDP to 13% of GDP under Bush. Manufacturing is 21% of German GDP with a higher paid heavily-unionized work force there.

  • Report this Comment On November 02, 2013, at 5:31 PM, FoxNusRTraitors wrote:

    Here's who voted for NAFTA - mostly Conservaives!

    NAFTA vote in 1993:

    House Dems 156-102 against NAFTA (Liberals, thanks for trying)

    House GOP 132-43 for NAFTA

    Senate Dems 28-27 against NAFTA (Liberals, thanks for trying)

    Senate GOP 34-10 for NAFTA

    Vote granting China Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR)) Status in 2000.

    House Dems 138-73 against China PNTR (Liberals, thanks for trying)

    House GOP 164-57 for China PNTR

    Senate Dems 37-7 for China PNTR (Liberals, didn't you hear Kucinich or moderate Perot)

    Senate GOP 46-8 for China PNTR (Thank you 8 RINOs)

  • Report this Comment On November 03, 2013, at 1:21 AM, Funquang wrote:

    You can thank the snitch and pedophile rapist (when president of the Film Actors Guild), multi-adulterous/engaged in pre-martial sex (to marry a 3 month pregnant Nancy), Treason fomenting (Iran Contra weapons for cocaine scandal), War Criminal (supporting Death Squads in El Salvador and Guatemala), wife and political party swapping Ronald Reagan; who fired the union FAA Air Traffic Controllers, that began the out-sourcing and off-shoring of American jobs to China.

    Since China now possesses over 1 trillion $'s in U.S. Treasury Bonds, Reagan's firing the FAA Controllers and his removing the solar panels from the White House roof and gutting alternative energy research, that has China now leading the world in the desirable "green" technology jobs. It can be said that Reagan admired the C.C.P. form of government.

    There is nothing to be proud of the unpatriotic, immoral and unethical Ronald Reagan, now the most convicted Felons and others who were a part of his administration.

  • Report this Comment On November 03, 2013, at 8:43 AM, bobthegoodone wrote:

    NAFTA was signed by President George H.W. Bush, Mexican President Salinas, and Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in 1992. It was ratified by the legislatures of the three countries in 1993. The U.S. House of Representatives approved it by 234 to 200 on November 17, 1993. The U.S. Senate approved it by 60 to 38 on November 20, three days later.

  • Report this Comment On November 03, 2013, at 8:44 AM, bobthegoodone wrote:

    The impetus for NAFTA actually began with President Ronald Reagan, who campaigned on a North American common market. In 1984, Congress passed the Trade and Tariff Act. This is important because it gave the President "fast-track" authority to negotiate free trade agreements,

  • Report this Comment On November 03, 2013, at 11:33 AM, peckbill wrote:

    Congress (Democrats and Republicans alike) need to get a handle on government operations and gain support of the American people. They need a few simple laws to fix a few important items before they try any big items like a Constitutional Amendment, 1) they need to read the Ethics Reform Act of 1989 and undo any reference that campaign fund contributions are nothing more than donations and therefore can be put into a individual Congressmen/women Leadership PAC (slush fund), 2) reinforce legislation to the IRS that the word “exclusively” regarding non-profit organizations is to be enforced as written and is not subject to interpretation, 3)add the following to any and all oaths of office for government hires, “I do solemnly swear that I will not lie to, steal from nor cheat the people I am elected to serve so long as I remain in this elected office.”, 4) make provisions to reimburse the Social Security Fund the 736 billion borrowed years ago and provide that no funds may be borrowed or re-aligned from that fund in the future. Accomplish this within a five (5) year period, 5) discontinue requiring the Postal Service to pay future benefits and treat the Postal Service as a normal business, 6) restrict foreign aid as long as programs within the United States of America, controlled by government spending, are not fully funded,7) approve legislation that will reduce and control costs of home and vehicle insurances so the lower and middle income individuals and families can buy a home and have a better vehicle to drive, 8) insider trading must be prohibited by members of Congress, their family and employees, and 9) members of Congress must not profit from any government subsidy deriving from any federal law approved by Congress.

    These are small things that can be done by House and Senate votes (it must be Democrats and Republicans working together) and a Presidential signature. These things are all close to every taxpayer and these are the items that need attention now.

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