Here’s all you need to know about the U.S. economy: It’s a great time to be a waiter or bartender. Or a nurse. Everybody else….meh.
You’ve seen the numbers. The U.S. economy keeps churning out new jobs by the hundreds of thousands, month after month. Even long-term unemployment numbers seem to be improving. So why do things still feel so bad? And more to the point, why are presidential candidates able to capitalize on that feeling so easily?
I set out to find out, and found myself in a love/hate relationship with Labor Department data recently. We’re still dating, the data and I — it’s complicated — but here’s the part that is not complicated:
Since March 2011 — five years ago — the U.S. economy has added 12.4 million jobs. Here’s a sampling of where those jobs have appeared:
- 2.2 million in “leisure and hospitality,” including 1.8 million in “accommodation and food services”
- 2.6 million in “education and health services,” including 2.1 million in “health care and social assistance”
- 1.4 million in “retail trade,” including 300,000 in car dealerships and 260,000 in “food and beverage stores”
- 1.3 million in ‘”administrative and waste services” for professional and business services
And there you have about two-thirds of all those job gains.
Mind you, there are plenty of good paying restaurant jobs — though median wage data is as bad as you’d imagine. There are certainly plenty of good health care jobs. And there are folks who do well working at car dealerships, too. But these numbers do not signal a modern economy awakening from a slumber. It’s more like an economy snoring during a nap.
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