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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Inequality in the U.S. is worsening by many measures — especially when it comes to employment.

Driving the news: The Job Quality Index (JQI), a measurement of "high" to "low quality" jobs in the U.S. private sector, has fallen from 81.1 in 2007 to 80.5 last year.

  • The 80.5 level signifies that 55% of workers were in low quality jobs versus 45% in high quality. (High quality means weekly wages above the national average for non-management production jobs and low means it's below.)
  • Axios is first to report the new findings from a group of research and industry analysts who publish the JQI monthly. They include economists from the Coalition for a Prosperous America, a trade group representing domestic sectors across farmers, manufacturers and labor organizations.

The inequality shows drastic differences when broken down by race: 28% of Hispanic American workers held high quality jobs in 2020, compared with 29% of Black American workers, and 61% of Asian American workers.

  • Since 2007, Black American workers have seen a 6% decline in job quality versus a less than 1% decline nationally, a 29% increase for Hispanic workers and a 66% increase for Asian American workers.

Why it matters: Worker pay has been at the heart of recent debates over the slowly recovering labor market.

What they’re saying: "Low-quality service sector jobs" in areas such as food service and social assistance (child day care, home health care, for example), have made the problem of declining job quality worse, CPA economists write in their new JQI report.

  • “Established policy objectives, including increased educational opportunities and reduced job discrimination, have an important role to play. But the importance of the sectoral mix of job opportunities, and the dominance of low-quality job growth in recent decades, is often overlooked.”

The big picture: The pandemic demonstrated how communities of Black and Hispanic workers — women in particular — were disproportionately impacted by shutdowns, given how much more likely they were to have been in service sector roles.

Yes, but: Investing in manufacturing as a way to boost the income levels and lifestyles of communities of color has been a familiar drumbeat this year following President Biden’s Build Back Better push to revitalize the industry. 

  • Critics, however, look at an executive order like the one to “buy American,” as the start of increased costs and reduced quality.

Be smart: The economy has been in a K-shape orientation well before the pandemic, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen wrote in her first message to staff this year. 

  • Upper-income families actually built wealth between 2001 and 2016, up 33%, while middle- and lower-income families saw declines of 20% and 45% respectively, according to Pew Research.
  • Over the past year, Yellen’s central bank counterpart Jerome Powell has been asked to address and acknowledge the Fed’s role in exacerbating systemic disadvantages, which include easy-money policies that benefit wealthier investors and corporations.

Go deeper

May 10, 2021 - Technology
Column / Tech Agenda

COVID-19 scatters tech hubs for young talent

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Young engineers and recent college graduates see Miami, Houston and Philadelphia — not San Francisco, New York or Seattle — as the hot new places to jumpstart a technology or creative economy career.

Why it matters: For some tech CEOs, it's the perfect time to capitalize on being where the new talent wants to go — and also pay lower taxes in the process, which makes Sun Belt cities in Florida and Texas attractive.

3 mins ago - Health

Exclusive: Bipartisan group of senators urges Blinken to vaccinate Americans abroad

Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Photo: Pool/Getty Images

Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) are leading an effort urging the Biden administration to coordinate with the Defense Department to donate supplemental COVID-19 vaccine doses to U.S. embassies and consulates.

Why it matters: Millions of Americans living in countries where they are not considered eligible for the vaccine or those living in places where vaccines are not being authorized by the FDA or the World Health Organization may have to wait for months or even years to receive a vaccine.

Pacific Northwest soon to be ground zero for record-shattering heat

Computer model projection showing the unusually strong heat dome over the Pacific Northwest on Sunday. (PivotalWeather).

A heat wave is bringing unprecedented high temperatures to the Pacific Northwest — a region of the country typically cooled by the ocean, rather than central air conditioning. The heat will begin Friday and last into early next week.

Why it matters: The heat wave will shatter monthly and all-time temperature records in the Pacific Northwest. Some of the records could break the old milestones by several degrees.