A report from the National Employment Law Project, Occupational Wage Declines Since the Great Recession, finds that real median wages across almost 800 occupations dropped by an average of 4.0% from 2009 to 2014. The lowest paying 20% of occupations saw the greatest average decline at 5.7%.
The study also reported on median wages for the ten largest low paying occupations. Restaurant cooks and food preparation workers saw the greatest declines of 8.9% and 7.7%, respectively. A full-time restaurant cook working for the median wage earned $2,185 less in real income in 2014 than 5 years ago. The median wage of retail salespersons, who comprise the majority of the low wage earners, declined by 5.0%, which translates to a decline in real annual income of $1,125.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that five of the ten fastest growing occupations by 2022 are in the lowest paying 20% of occupations. These occupations include personal care aides, home health aides, food preparation and serving workers, janitors and cleaners, and retail salespersons. All of these low paying occupations saw a decline in real median wages that range from -3.9% for food preparation and serving workers to -6.6% for personal care aides, janitors and cleaners.
The report also highlighted the importance of a minimum wage. The real median wage in the lowest paying 2% of occupations declined by only 1.6%. Wages in these occupations are so low that employers cannot push them down further. The mandated minimum wage increase in 22 states and some cities during the study period likely helped to keep real wage declines to a minimum for this group.
The report used data from the Occupational Employment Statistics program, which provides annual wage estimates for approximately 800 occupations based on semi-annual surveys. The study calculated the changes in median hourly wages by occupation from 2009 to 2014.
Occupational Wage Declines Since the Great Recession is available at http://bit.ly/1ie9dmb.