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Despite Economic Growth, Share of Good Jobs Has Fallen Since 1979

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November 6, 2007

Despite Economic Growth, Share of Good Jobs Has Fallen Since 1979

For Immediate Release: November 6, 2007
Contact: Alan Barber, (202) 293-5380 x115

Washington DC— The number of good jobs --jobs that pay at least $17 an hour, and provide health insurance and a pension -- declined by 3.5 million between 2000 and 2006, according to a new report by the Washington, DC-based Center for Economic and Policy Research.

The report, "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: Job Quality in the United States over the Three Most Recent Business Cycles," found that the economy has created fewer good jobs in the 2000s than was the case over comparable periods in the 1980s and 1990s.

The research defined a good job as one that pays $17 an hour, or $34,000 annually, has employer-provided health care and offers a pension. The $17 per hour figure is equal to the inflation-adjusted earnings of the typical male worker in 1979, the first year of data analyzed in the report.

Using this definition, the share of good jobs fell 2.3 percentage points, or about 3.5 million jobs, between 2000 and 2006. This decline was much sharper than what the economy experienced over comparable periods in the two preceding business cycles. Between 1979 and 1985, for example, the share of good jobs fell 0.5 percentage points. Between 1989 and 1995, the drop was just 0.l percentage points.
"Economists have a lot of explaining to do," said John Schmitt, an economist and the author of the report. "We generally expect that as the economy grows, job quality will increase. Over the last thirty years, however, the economy has grown by about 70 percent, yet the share of good jobs has been stagnant. The current business cycle has been particularly disappointing."

While the current business cycle has seen an increase in the share of jobs that pay at least $17 an hour, this gain has been more than offset by a decrease in the share of jobs that offer employer-provided health insurance (down 3.1 percent points) and pension coverage (down 4.9 percentage points).

Over the 2000s, the share of women in good jobs declined 0.2 percentage points, undermining small gains made in the 1980s and 1990s.  For men, the picture was worse, with a 4.4 percentage-point decline in the share of good jobs, compared to a 1.9 percentage-point decline in the 1990s and a 3.4 percentage-point drop in the 1980s.

"The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: Job Quality in the United States over the Three Most Recent Business Cycles" analyzed annual data from the March Current Population Survey for the years 1979 through 2006. The report also analyzed trends in bad jobs over the same period.

Read the full report here.

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