Bad Jobs Have Always Been Normal

Wednesday, 07 Aug 2013 07:40 AM

By Michael Carr

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Similar headlines now greet each new release of the monthly employment report. More part-time and low-paying jobs are being created than ever before, and depending on the writer, the cause is either Obamacare or corporate greed.

History shows that the job market is pretty much behaving as it normally does.

Trends in part-time work are troubling, but we don't yet have enough data to identify a problem. As a percent of the work force, the number of part-time jobs has been fairly steady at about 18 percent since the recession ended in 2009.

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Since 1990, at least 16 percent of jobs have been part time. Given the extended amount of time this number has been elevated, it is likely we have reached a new normal level for part-time jobs that is higher than it was in the past.

The creation of low-wage jobs is another concern expressed each month. Wells Fargo Economic Group recently found that the percentage of low-wage jobs being produced is in line with historic trends.

Well Fargo found that, on average, about 60 percent of jobs are in low-wage industries and that has been the case for a number of years.

Averages are often skewed to the high side. For example, consider golfing with Tiger Woods. Assuming you have never won a professional tournament, the average lifetime winnings for the two of you would be about $65 million, an average based on $130 million in winnings for Tiger Woods.

Salary data are similar. The average includes highly compensated sports stars, corporate CEOs and others earnings millions per year. There are also significantly more low-waged workers included in the salary calculation.

Expect to see the creation of low-wage jobs continue to be a talking point, ignoring the reality that a majority of jobs has always been low-paying. The data point to watch in the jobs market is the number of part-time workers, which is showing a potential sign of trouble.

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