Academic Literature

Polarization – The four middle skill occupations: 60 percent of employment in 1979, 46 percent in 2012

Cumulatively, these two trends of rapid employment growth in both high and low-­‐‑education jobs have substantially reduced the share of employment accounted for by ‘middle skill’ jobs. In 1979, the four middle skill occupations (sales, office and administrative workers, production workers, and operatives) accounted for 60 percent of employment. In 2007, this number was 49 percent, and in 2012, it was 46 percent. One can quantify the consistency of this trend by correlating the changes in occupational employment shares across these ten occupational categories across multiple decades. The correlation between changes in occupational shares between 1979-­‐‑1989 and 1989-­‐‑1999 was 0.64, and for the decades of 1989-­‐‑1999 and 1999-­‐‑2007, was 0.67. Remarkably, the correlation between occupational share changes during 1999-­‐‑2007 and 2007-­‐‑2012—that is, prior to and during the Great Recession—was 0.80.

Capture d’écran 2014-08-23 à 09.30.27

The polarization of employment across occupations is not unique to the United States. Evidence of this fact is presented in Figure 3, which plots changes in the share of employment between 1993 and 2010 within three broad sets of occupations—low-­‐‑, middle-­‐‑, and high-­‐‑wage—covering all non-­‐‑agricultural employment in 16 European Union economies.15 In all countries, middle-­‐‑ wage occupations declined as a share of employment, high wage occupations increased as a share of employment, and low-­‐‑wage occupations gained in size relative to middle-­‐‑wage occupations over this 17-­‐‑year period. The comparability of these occupational shifts across a large set of developed countries—the United States among them—makes it likely that a common set of forces contributes to these shared labor-­‐‑market developments. Simultaneously, the substantial differences among countries apparent in the data underscores that no single factor or common cause explains the diversity of experiences across the United States and the European Union.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at  Polanyi’s Paradox and the Shape of Employment Growth

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