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The EPI has released The State of Working America 2002-03, which is a summary of currentlabor market conditions and historical trends.
Bottom line – boom good, recession bad.

Executive Summary
A comprehensive review of the state of working America reveals three important developments.
First, the U.S. labor market has moved into a recession for the first time in a decade. The downturn has been underway in manufacturing since 2000, and, as of June 2002, unemployment remained high. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 meant that, unlike in previous recessions, the services industry has experienced little or no employment growth, and transportation, retail trade, and wholesale trade are experiencing unusual weakness. So far (through June 2002), the unemployment levels are below those of the early 1990s, but job losses have been steep nevertheless. The percentage decline in private-sector employment is greater than that seen in the early 1990s, and the employment decline for women is double what it was then. Higher unemployment is beginning to take a toll on wage growth, which has begun to slow, and there are indications of an expansion in earnings inequality.
Second, this recession comes after years of persistently low unemployment. Although structural problems remained – the long-term decline in job quality and unionization, the deregulation of key industries, and the persistence of imbalanced trade and the ensuing loss of a manufacturing base – low unemployment brought rapid wage and income growth to families across the income distribution. Most notably, middle- and lower-income families, whose economic fortunes had stagnated in prior years, saw real income gains over the late 1990s. African American and Hispanic families also disproportionately benefited in terms of low unemployment and fast earnings growth during those years.
Third, the long-term trend of increased hours of paid work by America?s families continued through the late 1990s. The pace slowed, however, because, as wages were rising, families could work the same hours while bringing home more income. In any case, more time at work, a reduction in paid vacation and holiday time, and the lack of legislated paid family leave mean that families are under increasing time stress.


Filed under: Economics, Policy



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