Dynamic Economy Produces High-Paying Jobs

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Many high-paying jobs have been created in key sectors of the economy over the past generation, according to a study from the University of Chicago. The dynamic churn of the U.S. economy has caused turbulence, but on balance it has been good for workers in computers, finance, trucking and the food industry.


Hard to know whether to moan or smile about this news. Changing technology and outsourcing have many people worried about the loss of good jobs. But a new study says that some sectors vulnerable to those changes have actually been adding well-paying jobs.

NPR's Frank Langfitt reports.

FRANK LANGFITT: U.S. companies have been shipping software and semiconductor jobs overseas for years. But the total number of jobs in these high skill industries has continued to rise.

And they're paying better too, according to a study published by the University of Chicago. For instance, top earners in the semiconductor business make $31,000 more on average than they did in 1992.

Julia Lane, an economist, co-authored the study.

Ms. JULIA LANE (Economist): Do we still have high wage jobs in the United States, or have good jobs disappeared? Well, when you compare the earnings at the beginning of the period with the end, we actually find there are more high-wage jobs, but there are also more jobs overall, whether it's low, medium, or high, there are more jobs.

LANGFITT: Those increases seem to run counter to years of data showing that middle-income workers have struggled with stagnant wages.

Edward Gramlich says one reason for the contradiction may be because the study only focused on five job sectors, including finance, retail, food, and trucking. Gramlich is a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, an economic policy think tank.

Mr. EDWARD GRAMLICH (Senior Fellow, Urban Institute): It is not the whole labor market. At some point the research should really be extended to include some other industries. For example, in my adopted state of Michigan, we've got an industry up there that makes things that burn gasoline, where I think the experience might be very different.

LANGFITT: Indeed, Ford and GM are in the process of cutting tens of thousands of union jobs. Foreign automakers in the south are adding jobs, but they don't pay as well.

Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Washington.

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