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December 2006, Vol. 129, No. 12
Change in employment by occupation, industry, and earnings quartile, 2000–05
The aftermaths of the last two recessions were marked by at least two similarities—the anemic pace of job growth and dissension among data users and policy makers alike regarding the quality of jobs that were being created once the labor market began to expand. From mid- to late-2004, a number of articles on the quality of jobs surfaced. These reports usually associated a particular industry or occupational category with their respective relative earnings (either the mean or median earnings figure) as the criteria for distinguishing between "good jobs" and "bad jobs." Many of the articles cited employment and earnings data produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Most of the attempts to measure the quality of new jobs focused on changes in industry employment, as measured by the Current Employment Statistics survey (CES or establishment survey) or on occupational data from the Current Population Survey (CPS or household survey).
This article approaches the subject from the perspective of how the composition of industry or occupational employment changed across the earnings spectrum. Determining where employment growth (or decline) occurred in the earnings distribution adds another dimension to the analysis of the nature of job growth. Many industries and occupations possess extensive earnings distributions, and assessments that base the "quality of jobs" in a particular industry or occupation on a single earnings figure (either mean or median) are somewhat problematic. For example, the median weekly earnings figures for construction and manufacturing workers have been consistently higher than the median wage for all wage and salary workers. Based on a single earnings estimate (the median earnings figure for the particular industry) and given the labor market developments over the past few years in these industries, it would not be unreasonable to assume that jobs paying more than the overall median wage were created in construction and lost in manufacturing.
This excerpt is from an article published in the December 2006 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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Related BLS programs
Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey
Analyzing CPS data
using gross flows.—Sept.
Earnings and employment trends in the 1990s—Mar. 2000.
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