May 16, 2018

The coming wage crisis

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.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 1,309, 439 — Total deaths: 72,638 — Total recoveries: 273,546Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 347, 003 — Total deaths: 10,335 — Total recoveries: 18,953Map.
  3. 2020 update: Wisconsin governor issues executive order to delay in-person primary voting until June.
  4. Public health latest: Asymptomatic children could play important role in coronavirus spread, new data from the CDC shows.
  5. States' latest: West coast states send ventilators to New York and other states experiencing a more immediate need — Data suggests coronavirus curve may be flattening in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
  6. Jobs latest: Unemployment could already be at 13% "and moving higher," per former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen.
  7. What should I do? Pets, moving and personal health. Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Wisconsin governor issues order to delay in-person primary voting until June

Photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) issued an executive order Monday delaying in-person voting for the state's primary election — currently scheduled for Tuesday — until June 9.

Why it matters: Wisconsin was slated to be the only state to vote on Tuesday amid the coronavirus pandemic, despite having a stay-at-home order in place.

U.S. coronavirus updates: Death toll reaches 10,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Recorded deaths from the novel coronavirus surpassed 10,000 in the U.S. on Monday, per Johns Hopkins data. More than 1,000 people in the U.S. have died of coronavirus-related conditions each day since April 1.

Why it matters: U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on Sunday the coming week will be "the hardest and saddest week of most Americans' lives" — calling it our "our Pearl Harbor, our 9/11 moment."

Go deeperArrowUpdated 1 hour ago - Health