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Where Wages Are Rising (And Falling), In 1 Graph

Job growth has been strong and steady over the past year. Wages, not so much: Average pay for U.S. workers barely kept up with inflation. But there was a fair bit of variation across different sectors. Here's a look. (In the graph, the size of the circle indicates the total number of jobs in each sector.)

The graph looks like a sideways horseshoe. High-wage and low-wage jobs saw pay gains, while jobs in the middle saw wages stagnate or decline. This trend has been going on for a long time; MIT economist David Autor has called it the "hollowing out" of the middle class.

Of course, you can also point to a number of more specific factors at work over the past year. The economic recovery drove wage gains in retail, leisure and construction jobs — all of which tend to be highly cyclical, growing a lot during expansions and contracting rapidly during recessions. The energy boom drove gains in the mining, drilling and logging category. And the "information" sector is basically computer-related stuff, which, you know the story there.

One final note: The categories here are really broad — we'd love to unbundle health care and education, for example — but this data set doesn't let us do that.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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