Job Gap Widens in Uneven Recovery

11/12/13
 
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from The Wall Street Journal,
11/12/13:

Split in Employment Market Undermines Broader Economic Rebound.

America’s jobs recovery is proceeding on two separate tracks—a pattern that is persisting far longer than after past economic rebounds and lately has been growing worse.

Despite three years of steady job gains, and four years of economic growth, many Americans have yet to experience much that could be described as a recovery. That sort of pattern isn’t unusual in the aftermath of a recession, but it usually eases as growth picks up steam.

Youth unemployment, for example, nearly always improves after recessions more slowly than that of prime-age workers, those between 25 and 54. Following the 2001 recession, it took six months for the gap between the youth and prime-age unemployment rates to return to its long-run average. After the early 1990s recession, it took 30 months. This time, it has been 52 months, and the gap has hardly narrowed.

For those with decent jobs, wages are rising, albeit slowly, and job security is the strongest it has been since before the recession. Many families have paid down debts and are seeing the value of assets, from homes to stocks, rebound strongly.

But many others—the young, the less educated and particularly the unemployed—are experiencing hardly any recovery at all. Hiring remains weak, and the jobs that are available are disproportionately low-paying and often part-time. Wage growth is nearly nonexistent, in part because with so many people still looking for jobs, workers have little bargaining power.

The two-track nature of the recovery helps explain why the four-year-old upturn still doesn’t feel like one to many Americans. Higher earners are spending on cars, electronics and luxury items, boosting profits for the companies that make and sell such goods. But much of the rest of the economy remains stuck: Companies won’t hire or raise pay without more demand, and consumers can’t spend more without faster hiring and fatter paychecks.

Indeed, households earning $50,000 or more have become steadily more confident over the past year and a half, according to a monthly consumer survey conducted by RBC Capital Markets, though confidence dipped during last month’s partial government shutdown. Among lower-income households confidence has stagnated. The gap in confidence between the two groups is near its widest ever, noted RBC chief U.S. economist Tom Porcelli.

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