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May
2011
10

Andrew Kroll’s Not-So-Happy Meal Ticket


Yes, jobs are being created, but what kinds of jobs paying what kinds of wages? Can those jobs sustain a modest lifestyle and pay the bills? Or are we living through a McJobs recovery?

Mother Jones writer Andrew Kroll has weighed in on the recent mass hiring by McDonald’s. The spring blitz saw 62,000 people attain jobs and, hard-to-believably, 938,000 get turned away. As Kroll points out, “McDonald’s was more selective than the Princeton, Stanford, or Yale University admission offices.”

Kroll provides the Oxford English Dictionary definition of “McJob,” but the article is far from a hoot. Kroll’s focus is on wages which McDonald’s pays at a bare minimum, less than half the annual average American’s wage. He cites the company’s pledge to dump $518 million into the new hires, but quick math shows that’s just $8,354 per person. Kroll digs in to the numbers:

According to a recent analysis by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), the biggest growth in private-sector job creation in the past year occurred in positions in the low-wage retail, administrative, and food service sectors of the economy. While 23% of the jobs lost in the Great Recession that followed the economic meltdown of 2008 were “low-wage” (those paying $9-$13 an hour), 49% of new jobs added in the sluggish “recovery” are in those same low-wage industries. On the other end of the spectrum, 40% of the jobs lost paid high wages ($19-$31 an hour), while a mere 14% of new jobs pay similarly high wages.

As a point of comparison, that’s much worse than in the recession of 2001 after the high-tech bubble burst. Then, higher wage jobs made up almost a third of all new jobs in the first year after the crisis.

The hardest hit industries in terms of employment now are finance, manufacturing, and especially construction, which was decimated when the housing bubble burst in 2007 and has yet to recover. Meanwhile, NELP found that hiring for temporary administrative and waste-management jobs, health-care jobs, and of course those fast-food restaurants has surged.

Indeed in 2010, one in four jobs added by private employers was a temporary job, which usually provides workers with few benefits and even less job security. It’s not surprising that employers would first rely on temporary hires as they regained their footing after a colossal financial crisis. But this time around, companies have taken on temp workers in far greater numbers than after previous downturns. Where 26% of hires in 2010 were temporary, the figure was 11% after the early-1990s recession and only 7% after the downturn of 2001.

As many labor economists have begun to point out, we’re witnessing an increasing polarization of the US economy over the past three decades. More and more, we’re seeing labor growth largely at opposite ends of the skills-and-wages spectrum—among, that is, the best and the worst kinds of jobs.

Read the whole piece, which takes a look at the role of big labor in all of this, HERE.

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