Millions Of New Jobs, But Many Don't Pay Well

The economy has added about 4.6 million jobs since the recession ended. But nearly 40 percent of these jobs don't pay well and have only limited benefits.

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The economy added only about 100,000 private sector jobs last month - far fewer than had been expected.

And as NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports, a close reading of the numbers reveals that many of those jobs are low wage.

WENDY KAUFMAN, BYLINE: Some of the nation's job growth has been in places like this - a suburban mall near Seattle. While many shoppers aren't spending like they did before the economic crash, they are buying more than they did a couple of years ago.

An analysis by Mark Vitner, a senior economist at Wells Fargo, shows that about 40 percent of last month's job growth - and indeed all job growth since early 2010 - has occurred in just four industries: the retail trade; leisure and hospitality - that includes restaurants; home health care; and temporary staffing.

MARK VITNER: And when you weight the wages, it works out to about $15 an hour.

KAUFMAN: Far less than the average private sector wage of about $23.50 an hour. What's more, many of the new jobs are part-time and have few if any benefits. The result says Vitner is pretty obvious.

VITNER: The composition of job growth being so heavily weighted toward low wage jobs explains a lot of why it's been so hard for us to break out of this 2 percent growth holding pattern that we've been in.

KAUFMAN: He goes on to say a lot of Americans aren't working in the jobs they'd like to have and many of these low wage workers are not out there spending like they otherwise would. It's a vicious cycle because consumer spending makes up the bulk of the U.S. economy.

Wendy Kaufman, NPR News.

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