Bad Jobs Rising: 24% Of American Workers Stuck In Low-Paying Bad Jobs

Feel like you and a lot of people you know are stuck in bad jobs?

If you’re employed in the United States, chances are about one-in-four that you have a bad job, according to a new study. If misery loves company then people with bad jobs have plenty.

A quarter of American workers are stuck in bad jobs.

A quarter of American workers are stuck in bad jobs.

Almost one-fourth of U.S. workers are in a bad job, according to a new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). That means about 36 million workers have bad jobs based on the approximate size of the U.S. workforce.

Despite substantial increases in the education, age, and quantity and quality of technology during the last 30 years, the share of workers with a “bad job” has risen since 1979, the CEPR researchers concluded.

The report, “Bad Jobs on the Rise,” defines a bad job as one that pays less than $37,000 per year, does not have employer-provided health insurance and lacks some kind of retirement plan.

The $37,000 figure, which is about $18.50 per hour at full-time, is equal to the inflation-adjusted earnings of the typical male worker in 1979, the first year of data analyzed in the report.

The new report complements earlier CEPR research documenting the decline in good jobs during this same period.

More Bad Jobs

By this definition, in 2010, 24% of the workforce had a “bad job,” up from 18% in 1979.

Compared to the end of the 1970s, the typical worker today is almost twice as likely to have a four-year college degree, is about seven years older, works with about 50% more physical capital and uses much more advanced technology.

Despite this, the share of bad jobs has grown.

“The increase in the share of bad jobs has little to do with the Great Recession,” said John Schmitt, a CEPR senior economist and one of the report’s co-authors. “Almost all of the increase we document had already occurred by 2007, before the downturn.”

The main driver of the rise in bad jobs, the report argues, was the systematic decline in workers’ bargaining power since the end of the 1970s.

The reports’ authors point to the fall in the inflation-adjusted value of the minimum wage, the decline in union representation, trade deals and high unemployment were key factors reducing workers’ bargaining power relative to their employers.

Read the full report here.

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