This month’s unemployment drop to 7.8% certainty was good new for President Obama, but it’s important to examine what kind of jobs are being created. A study published in August by the National Employment Law Project found that the majority of new jobs pay low wages. The study finds that while 21% of recession losses were low-wage jobs (with a median hourly wage of $7.69-$13.38), 58 % of recovery growth jobs pay employees a low-wage. 60% of jobs lost during the recession were mid-wage jobs (median hourly wage $13.84-$21.23), but only 22% of new jobs are mid-wage jobs.
Not only are many new jobs low paying, but many are also only part-time. In a recent New York Times article, Steven Greenhouse explains that although many Americans with part-time jobs would prefer to have full-time jobs, employers have found that it’s cheaper to employ more people in part-time jobs than less people in full-time jobs. This is especially true of major retailers, who over the past twenty years have gone from employing 70-80% of their workers full time to employing over 80% of their workers part-time. Part-time workers in service jobs are paid an average wage of $10.92 an hour, while the pay of their full-time counterparts averages $17.19 an hour. This means that many workers, although employed, are not making enough to live on, and have to use food stamps and medicare. Many people who take second part-time jobs are still struggling to make ends meet. The rise of part-time jobs is due in part to big-box stores like Wal-Mart (America’s largest private sector employer, with 1.4 million employees), who not only rely on part-time employees, but who also create intense competition through this race to the bottom, which makes other companies rely more on part-time workers to reduce wages. Wal-Mart’s low wages and reliance on part-time workers are certainly making someone rich, however, with reported profits of 4.02 billion in the second quarter or 2012.