04/12/2012 11:18 am ET

Middle Class Misses Out On Recovery As Poor, Rich Grab Jobs: Report

The job market may be bouncing back, but only for those making a lot of money or not much of it at all.

Middle income jobs have accounted for only 34 percent of employment gains since February 2010, according to Wells Fargo calculations cited by Bloomberg, even though they employ 40 percent of workers. During the same period, the lowest paying jobs made up 46 percent of employment growth, while the highest paying jobs, which only employ 15 percent of the population, accounted for 20 percent of gains.

But the phenomenon isn't just confined to this most recent downturn. More than 90 percent of middle-skill job loss since the mid-1980s has taken place right around a recession, according to a March study from the National Bureau of Economic Research. In addition, almost all of the job loss during those recessions can be attributed to a drop in middle-skill occupations.

And it could be bad news for the trajectory of the recovery: "Jobless recoveries are observed only in these disappearing, middle-skill jobs," the NBER researchers wrote in their study. The jobs at the high and low paying end of the spectrum are less likely to experience losses and if they do, they rebound shortly after a recession ends, the report adds.

The low-wage job rebound is especially apparent in one industry: the restaurant sector. The restaurant and food service industries added 188,500 jobs last month, while net U.S. employment gains amounted to 120,000 after accounting for last month’s job losses. That's not great news for job seekers looking for work, however. The restaurant industry is one of just two sectors that experienced a decline in wages last year.

By concentrating much of the gains in low-wage jobs like those in the food services sector, employers are managing to squeeze more out of their employees than ever. S&P 500 companies made an average of $420,000 per employee last year, a full ninth better than the amount they pulled in per worker in 2007.

And while some employers are offering high-skill jobs, they're having trouble finding qualified applicants. Companies like Boeing and Dow Chemical are fighting to hire the limited number of engineers and other highly-skilled worker to fill their offices, according to separate Bloomberg report.