by Bud Meyers, published on March 29, 2015
Economists refer to “job polarization” in the labor force when middle-class jobs (requiring a moderate level of skills) appear to disappear relative to those at the bottom (requiring fewer skills) and to those at the top — requiring greater skills; or those who are better networked and know people in a position of influence. (Below is a simple animation to show how job polarization might look).
Latest wage data from the Social Security Administration for 2013 showed an annual median wage of $28,031 — and at 40 hours a week for 52 weeks would be $13.48/hour. But FiveThirtyEight.Com reports the median worker earned $17.09 an hour in May 2014 — or $35,547 for a typical full-time job. Middle-Class Jobs Are Still Lagging (March 26, 2015 by Ben Casselman):
“As has been true for much of the nearly six-year-old recovery, hiring was strongest at the top and bottom of the pay scale. Overall, jobs at the extremes of the pay distribution — those where median pay falls in the top or bottom 20 percent of all occupations — have surpassed their prerecession peaks. Jobs in the middle 60 percent experienced slower growth and are still deep in negative territory … Some economists have argued that longer-term forces, particularly automation and outsourcing, are having a polarizing effect on the job market, with high- and low-skilled jobs growing as those in the middle disappear.”
Assuming (at very least) that $50,000 a year (before payroll taxes) is a true middle-class wage in 2015, then 72.7% of all wage earners make less than that today. If the middle-class were defined by individuals (not multiple-income households) who had incomes of between $50,000 and $100,000 a year, then less than 20% of all wage earners make a middle-class wage.