Has the job market really recovered?

By Carla Fulton, SPHR

Appearances can be deceiving in all the positive news that surrounds the jobs reports. Sustained recovery has not restored confidence, and to many analysts, workers are “running up a down escalator.”

Governmental reports reveal an economy that is healing, yet is marked with indelible and lasting scars. Many Americans feel worse off than they did the last time that the economy had approximately the same number of jobs that it has now.

Even though a substantial number of jobs have been added, and the unemployment rate hovers around 6%, there is no firepower to this economy.

There are still millions of jobs missing from this economy.  Nearly 1.5 million jobs lost in construction and 1.65 fewer jobs in manufacturing. Many of these jobs will never return, having been replaced by new technologies, software, and advanced equipment.

Another frightening statistic is that during the economic recovery, more workers left the job market than entered it. Now, just 58.9 percent of working Americans actually have jobs, down from 62.7 at the start of the recession.

Granted, some come from an aging workforce, a workforce in which the Baby Boomers are now retiring, but for the most part, meaningful wage gains in this economy are unlikely to materialize.

Another fact, the recovery hasn’t kept up with the escalating population. Researchers estimate that 7 million jobs should have been added to keep up with the escalating population. This hasn’t happened. Another frightening fact.

And yet another solemn fact, typically low-paying industries account for more than one third of the job gains. Jobs in restaurants, temporary agencies, and retail are now the big gainers.

Employers have also shifted away from full time employees to part time employees. Some analysts state “the traditional labor market is no longer relevant.”

But there is a positive note: as long as unemployment continues to decline, wages will continue to rise.