After the Great Recession, Many American Workers Are Underemployed and Underpaid

Posted by Kendall Harmon

These are anxious days for American workers. Many, like Ms. [Sherry] Woods, are underemployed. Others find pay that is simply not keeping up with their expenses: adjusted for inflation, the median hourly wage was lower in 2011 than it was a decade earlier, according to data from a forthcoming book by the Economic Policy Institute, “The State of Working America, 12th Edition.” Good benefits are harder to come by, and people are staying longer in jobs that they want to leave, afraid that they will not be able to find something better. Only 2.1 million people quit their jobs in March, down from the 2.9 million people who quit in December 2007, the first month of the recession.

“Unfortunately, the wage problems brought on by the recession pile on top of a three-decade stagnation of wages for low- and middle-wage workers,” said Lawrence Mishel, the president of the Economic Policy Institute, a research group in Washington that studies the labor market. “In the aftermath of the financial crisis, there has been persistent high unemployment as households reduced debt and scaled back purchases. The consequence for wages has been substantially slower growth across the board, including white-collar and college-educated workers.”

Now, with the economy shaping up as the central issue of the presidential election, both President Obama and Mitt Romney have been relentlessly trying to make the case that their policies would bring prosperity back. The unease of voters is striking: in a New York Times/CBS News poll in April, half of the respondents said they thought the next generation of Americans would be worse off, while only about a quarter said it would have a better future.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPsychologyStress* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

6 Comments
Posted June 19, 2012 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. St. Jimbob of the Apokalypse wrote:

Or, on the flip side, are Americans overeducated and overexpectationed?

June 19, 9:05 am | [comment link]
2. Cennydd13 wrote:

Here in the San Joaquin Valley, our workforce is mainly agricultural, and the work is seasonal, which accounts for our perennially high unemployment rate.  We are the nation’s breadbasket, and yet our workers are among the worst paid and least insured in the country.  This is a disgrace.

We have tried, without success, to attract high-tech industry to our city, but have been ignored at just about every turn, even though our city is relatively well-educated and our people are ready, willing, and able to work in the high-tech job market, since many are refugees from Silicon Valley just across the mountains. 

We have been told that it is the “high cost of doing business in your city which keeps us from coming into town.”  This means that the local tax structure, along with business licenses, developers’ fees, the lack of a major airport and railroad….even though we’re close to a major interstate (I-5) and on a cross-state thoroughfare….152, are what are preventing economic growth in this area of the state.  Merced County is one of the poorest in California, yet it is one of the richest in terms of economic potential.

June 19, 10:30 am | [comment link]
3. Ad Orientem wrote:

I never got past the title. When one writes “After” when referring to a depression (not recession) that is still very much going on, anything that comes after it cannot be taken seriously.

June 19, 2:12 pm | [comment link]
4. Cennydd13 wrote:

Anyone who thinks that we’re not still in a recession is deluding himself.  Occasionally, we hear of the unemployment figures declining, but it’s not happening where I live.  The real truth of the matter is that while employers say they sympathise with people who are out of work, they’re not doing anything to help improve the situation.  They are quick to blame it on foreign competition, yet they can’t seem to offer solutions that would improve things.  What happened to the entreprenurial spirit?

June 19, 8:10 pm | [comment link]
5. Ad Orientem wrote:

The government does statistics the way Bernie Madoff did bookkeeping. The truth is that the real unemployment is around 15%. And it has been there or higher since 2008. That’s depression level.

June 19, 9:03 pm | [comment link]
6. Emerson Champion wrote:

Well, yeah. But what do expect from a group who calls an increase in spending a “budget cut”?

June 19, 9:06 pm | [comment link]
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