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Short-order cook, 1944. Photo: Eric Schaal/LIFE/Getty

In the future of automation, the crisis in the advanced economies may be flat wages and not a lack of jobs. That future appears already to be here: In April, unemployment fell to 3.9%, but two-thirds of U.S. jobs pay less than $20 an hour. And the three most-common jobs, held by 11.5 million people, pay much less.

  • Retail sales ($13.07 an hour)
  • Cashier ($10.43)
  • Food-preparer ($9.84)

Why it matters: In the first technological cycle of the Industrial Age, in the beginning of the 19th century, we got the Luddite uprising. Over the subsequent decades, jobs were destroyed and new jobs created, roiling millions of people's lives. But the biggest crisis was low wages — Americans could not afford the basics.

  • It took until around the 1880s for average wages to rebalance.
  • But by then, widespread inequality had triggered a global political crisis very much resembling today's (for more, read Barbara Tuchman's The Proud Tower. h/t Karen Harris)

Today, many teachers are in the group that can't afford the basics: Near the high end of the United Way survey are elementary school teachers, earning an average of $29.51 an hour.

Another worrying sign: As boomers age, they will need personal care aides, a job requiring numerous nuanced skills including empathy. They earn an average of $10.92 an hour.

Go deeper

Biden plans to ask public to wear masks for first 100 days in office

Joe Biden. Photo: Mark Makela/Gettu Images

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris sat down with CNN on Thursday for their first joint interview since the election.

The big picture: In the hour-long segment, the twosome laid out plans for responding to the pandemic, jump-starting the economy and managing the transition of power, among other priorities.

The quick FCC fix that would get more students online

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As the pandemic forces students out of school, broadband deployment programs aren't going to move fast enough to help families in immediate need of better internet access. But Democrats at the Federal Communications Commission say the incoming Biden administration could put a dent in that digital divide with one fast policy change.

State of play: An existing FCC program known as E-rate provides up to $4 billion for broadband at schools, but Republican FCC chairman Ajit Pai has resisted modifying the program during the pandemic to provide help connecting students at home.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
53 mins ago - Politics & Policy

America's hidden depression

Biden introduces his pick for Treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, on Dec. 1. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President-elect Biden faces a fragile recovery that could easily fall apart, as the economy remains in worse shape than most people think.

Why it matters: There is a recovery happening. But it's helping some people immensely and others not at all. And it's that second part that poses a massive risk to the Biden-Harris administration's chance of success.