BUSINESS
10/15/2012 02:02 pm ET | Updated Oct 15, 2012

U.S. Recessions Deplete Middle-Skill Jobs, Study Finds

Recessions are costing America middle-class jobs.

Over the past two decades, U.S. employers often have laid off routine, middle-skill workers during recessions, while failing to bring those jobs back during the recoveries that followed, according to a paper by economists Nir Jaimovich of Duke University and Henry Siu of the University of British Columbia. Instead, mostly low-skill and high-skill jobs are being created as a result.

The findings help shed light on why low-wage jobs have predominated in the nation's current economic recovery. A recent paper by the National Employment Law Project found that three-fifths of the jobs that were lost during the recession paid middle incomes, while three-fifths of the jobs that have been created during the economic recovery pay low wages.

For example, food service jobs -- where the average pay is about $18,000 per year -- lately have been one area of notable job growth. Only one in eight food industry workers make a living wage, according to a recent report by the Food Chain Workers Alliance.

Technological advances are in part to blame, in many cases allowing employers to replace middle- and low-wage workers, such as secretaries, travel agents, and retail associates, with machines.

(Hat tip: the Washington Post's Suzy Khimm.)

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