U.S. middle-skill jobs struggle to come back: NY Fed

Wed May 21, 2014 1:06pm EDT
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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Millions of U.S. teaching, construction and other middle-skill jobs lost in the last recession have not returned, exacerbating the already high unemployment that has been a drag on the U.S. recovery, New York Federal Reserve officials said on Wednesday.

These middle-skill jobs, which pay roughly $25,000 to $50,000 annually, suffered the heaviest losses in the past three downturns when compared with high-skill and lower-skill counterparts, they said at a press briefing on current labor conditions in New York, northern New Jersey and Puerto Rico.

"A feature of the Great Recession and indeed the prior two recessions, is that middle-skill jobs that were lost don't all come back during the recoveries that follow," New York Fed President William Dudley said in a speech.

From 2007 to 2010, U.S. employers slashed 9.3 percent of middle-skill jobs as companies coped with falling sales and local governments faced ballooning deficits, a New York Fed study released on Wednesday showed based on federal jobs data.

Since the start of the recovery, middle-skill jobs have increased 1.9 percent.

In comparison, higher-skill and higher-paying occupations in law, finance and medicine have grown 7.8 percent on top of the 1.0 percent gain during the recession.

Lower-skill and lower-paying jobs in food and other services industries recovered 6.0 percent in 2010 to 2013 following a 2.6 percent decline.

"The middle (skill jobs) tends to shrink away," said Jaison Abel, a senior economist at the New York Fed who co-wrote the regional jobs study with Richard Deitz. "Technology and globalization are driving this trend."

At the end of 2013, middle-skill jobs made up 49 percent of all U.S. jobs, down from 52 percent in 2007. This three-point drop is equivalent to five million jobs at this level which have disappeared, according to Abel.   Continued...