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Are Recovery Jobs Good Jobs?

BLS Report puts a spotlight on Occupational Statistics
BLS Report puts a spotlight on Occupational Statistics
Screenshot of BLS Report on Occupational Statistics

Where have all the good jobs gone? The Great Recession took 8.7 million jobs. Since that time the jobs have been returning and those who had given up their job search are slowly returning back to the workforce. The US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has been reporting that over the last six months the US economy has been adding around 200,000 jobs each month. While that is good news the bulk of the post-recession jobs have been in hospitality, restaurants and temporary staffing agencies.

A recent report by the BLS acknowledges that at 4.5 million Retail Sales jobs is the largest single occupation in the United States. Cashiers make up the next largest occupation with 3.5 million jobs and fast food and food preparation is the third largest occupation at 3 million jobs. The three top occupations are the lowest paying jobs in the country. Those who are employed in Retail Sales can look forward to an average mean wage of $25,370.

Cashiers earn $20,420 annually and workers employed in fast food and food preparation come in at a humbling low of $18,880 a year. It has been proposed that increasing the Federal Minimum wage to $10.10/hr would help improve the lives of over 8 million low wage earners by raising them to an annual wage of $21,008 annually. Will raising the Federal minimum wage help us? Not really when comparing the low wage earners against the national annual mean wages of $46,440 a year.

Despite the overall economic drag during the recovery overall education remains the ticket to a higher income. Occupations that require less than a High School Diploma had an average mean wage of $23,840 a year. Jobs requiring a high school diploma or equivalent earned an average of $41,170. A Bachelor’s Degree brought an average annual income of $79,590 a year. Surprisingly, a Master’s Degree actually earned $9,260 less than a Bachelor’s Degree. This disparity is attributed to occupations requiring a Master’s Degree associated with education, community or social services that have relatively low wages.

Occupations that have the highest wages in the US are in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) which accounted for 8.2 million jobs and makes up 6.2% of the total U.S. employment. Computer occupations made up 3.6 million STEM jobs followed by Engineers with 1.5 million jobs. The mean average annual STEM wage was $83,940. The higher annual mean wage is partially due to high educational requirements. Among the STEM jobs Petroleum Engineers have account for the highest annual mean wages of $150,000 a year.

The data comes from the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Spotlight on Statistics by Occupation.

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