April 26, 2010
Boeing CEO Jim McNerney succinctly summarized a recent study by Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies regarding unemployment rates for different income brackets:
The Center analyzed the labor conditions faced by income-grouped U.S. households during the fourth quarter of 2009.
In the face of one of the worst economic environments in memory, those in the highest income groups had nearly full employment levels, with just a 3.2 percent unemployment rate for households with over $150,000 in income and a 4 percent rate in the next-highest income group of $100,000-plus.
The two lowest-income groups — under $12,500 and under $20,000 annually — faced unemployment rates of 30.8 percent and 19.1 percent, respectively.
The study – published in February – notes that the poor are suffering Depression levels of unemployment:
Workers in the lowest income decile faced a Great Depression type unemployment rate of nearly 31% while those in the second lowest income decile had an unemployment rate slightly below 20% …. Unemployment rates fell steadily and steeply across the ten income deciles. Workers in the top two deciles of the income distribution faced unemployment rates of only 4.0 and 3.2 percent respectively, the equivalent of full employment. The relative size of the gap in unemployment rates between workers in the bottom and top income deciles was close to ten to one. Clearly, these two groups of workers occupy radically different types of labor markets in the U.S.
The study is subtitled “A Truly Great Depression Among the Nation’s Low Income Workers Amidst Full Employment Among the Most Affluent”.
Arianna Huffington, commenting on the study, pointed out that it if were the high-earners suffering 31 percent unemployment, the media would be discussing unemployment non-stop. But because it is the poor who are suffering Depression-level unemployment, they largely ignore it.
As I noted last August:
Chris Tilly – director of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at UCLA – points out that some populations, such as African-Americans and high school dropouts, have been hit much harder than other populations, and that these groups are already experiencing depression-level unemployment.