The Jobs Market Isn’t as Healthy as It Seems

A hallmark of the U.S. economy’s record expansion has been steady growth in employment. Judging from the jobless rate, in fact, the labor market is the best it’s been in half a century. But what is missing in the focus on the numbers is a severe and troubling deterioration in the quality of jobs created.

A close look at labor trends in recent decades reveals that while the U.S. jobs market has expanded, the caliber of the positions created in the largest chunk of the workforce has steadily and significantly declined, leaving Americans working fewer hours on average, and in lower-paying positions. These changes to what we call job quality as distinguished from quantity — which largely align with the growth in the service economy at the expense of manufacturing — account for much that now ails the American economy and, as a consequence, society more broadly.