Why aren't we hearing more about the worst job and wage situation since the Great Depression?
The latest employment figures (released this morning) show job losses continuing to grow. According to the payroll survey, job losses are increasing more slowly than in previous months. According to the household survey, they're accelerating -- from 9.4 percent of the workforce in July to 9.7 percent in August. Bottom line: almost one out of six Americans who needs a full-time job either can't find one or is working part-time. Meanwhile, wage growth among people who have jobs has just about stopped. The Economic Policy Institute reports that between 2006 and 2008, wages grew at an annualized rate of 4.0 percent; by contrast, over the past three months annual wage growth has plummeted to just 0.7 percent . At the same time, furloughs -- requiring workers to take unpaid vacations -- are on the rise: recent surveys show 17 percent of companies imposing them. More than 20 percent of companies have suspended their contributions to 401(k)s and similar pension plans.
So why isn't the media screaming? Partly because these job and wage losses are not, for the most part, falling on the segment of our population most visible to the media. They're falling overwhelmingly on the middle class and the poor. Unemployment among those who have been in the top 10 percent of earnings is closer to 5 percent, and their earnings continue to climb -- although, to be sure, much more slowly than before the meltdown. It's much the same with health-care and pension benefits. Among people under 65 who are in the bottom 20 percent of incomes, only 21.9 percent have employer-sponsored health insurance -- if they have a job at all. Half of all people nearing retirement age have a 401(k) balance of less than $40,000.
More after the jump.