U.S. economy is expanding. With such strength comes new employment, as
President Bush noted after the Jan. 6 jobs report from the Labor
The president is absolutely correct.
Economic growth does increase total employment.
But does this trend improve the quality of work, meaning wages and
benefits? For more information, we turn to the Center for Economic and
Policy Research, which analyzed a quarter-century of robust U.S. economic
growth (1979–2004) by analyzing data from last March’s Current Population
During that 25-year period, Republican and
Democratic presidents sat in the White House. As they governed the nation,
the share of U.S. workers with “good jobs,” defined as hourly wages of at
least $16.00 ($32,000 annually), plus a retirement pension and
employer-paid health care remained the same -- 25 percent.
“The U.S. economy has failed to convert
long-term economic growth into better jobs,” said John Schmitt, CEPR
economist and author of the report.
In 1979 as in 2004, 75 percent of the
employed American work force lacked good jobs, as defined by the CEPR.
Consider these details.
The economy’s inflation-adjusted output of
goods and services per person rose by 60 percent between 1979 and 2004.
(It is worth noting that such growth does not include unpaid household
labor such as child-rearing and elder-caring.)
Crucially, for these same 25 years there was
no corresponding growth in the share of working Americans holding good
jobs. At the same time, their education levels increased, while technology
advanced by leaps and bounds.
For three of every four U.S. workers,
economic growth did not raise their living standards. The American
economy, the world’s largest, has failed to improve the lives of regular
people by providing them with more good jobs as a percentage of total
Accordingly, it is up to progressive media
to explicate and validate this story of job quality for the American
people. They have been living it.
is a member of Sacramento Area Peace Action and a co-editor of Because
People Matter, Sacramento's progressive paper. He can be reached at
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