Middle-class jobs

Date posted: July 2, 2013

There’s a lot of discussion about the loss of middle class jobs and the need to create more of them.  What are the trends in the job market affecting employment at various income levels? N.C. State University economist Mike Walden responds.

“Well of course during the recession we lost jobs at all income levels, although we did see a smaller job loss relatively speaking for those jobs that required more education. And this is really a theme that we’ve seen over the last couple of decades.

“We have really developed what I like to call a dumbbell job market. Anyone that goes to the gym, they pick up a dumbbell. They know that it has weights on either side, and then there’s a handle in the middle, a narrow handle.

And I think why that represents our job market is if you look at where jobs have been created over the last 25 years, we’ve had a lot of jobs created at the upward end of the pay scale, usually requiring college or more education. We’ve also, however, had a lot of jobs created at the lower end of the pay scale, requiring maybe a high school degree or something less.

Where we’ve not seen as much job creation as in that middle, so-called middle income jobs. And I think the reason for that is many of those middle income jobs are now being done by machinery and technology. So, I think the challenge of the future is obviously going to be to get the right training and skills into the workforce so that folks who normally took those middle-income jobs, which increasingly are not going to be there, can move up the job and income ladder.”

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