Study Reveals Which Middle-Wage Jobs Have Survived

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Research from the Federal Reserve shows that the share of middle-skill or middle-wage jobs in the U.S. workforce has dropped from 25 percent in 1985 to just above 15 percent today.  While middle-wage jobs have been on the decline for a number of years, a new study from CareerBuilder and Economic Modeling Specialists Intl. (EMSI) shows that there are various fields and states where these positions are thriving.

“Middle-wage positions sustained heavier hits during the recession than other wage groups,” said Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder.  “This is further indication of a hollowing effect economists have warned about, where middle-wage jobs are thinning out – creating a greater concentration of either high-wage or low-wage positions.  While this trend has become more pronounced in the last decade – and has broader implications for the U.S. economy – there are still areas of manufacturing, healthcare, energy and other fields where employment for middle-wage workers is stable and growing at a healthy pace.”

For the purpose of this study, CareerBuilder and EMSI defined middle-wage jobs as those that pay between $13.84 and $21.13per hour. Data on top occupations and locations for middle-wage jobs was pulled from EMSI's extensive labor market database of over 90 national and state employment resources.


Middle-Wage Occupations on the Rise

One quarter (25 percent) of all new jobs added in the U.S. since 2010 fall in the middle-wage range, trailing the share of both high-wage jobs (29 percent) and low-wage jobs (46 percent). While automation, offshoring and other factors are driving the declining share of middle-wage jobs, a variety of occupations in this segment have performed well post-recession.  Most of these occupations typically require on-the-job training, work experience, or short-term certificates and degrees that community colleges specialize in.

  • Customer Service Representatives – 

    added 132,690 jobs since 2010, up 6%
    Median hourly earnings – $14.91

  • Heavy/Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers – 

    added 118,541 jobs since 2010, up 7%
    Median hourly earnings – $18.41

  • Bookkeeping, Accounting and Auditing Clerks – added 77,162 jobs since 2010, up 4%
    Median hourly earnings – $17.02
  • Construction Laborers – added 69,148 jobs since 2010, up 6%
    Median hourly earnings – $14.60
  • Machinists

     – added 49,906 jobs since 2010, up 14%
    Median hourly earnings – $19.01

  • Welders, Cutters, Solderers and Brazers

     – added 38,153 jobs since 2010, up 11%
    Median hourly earnings – $17.58

  • Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics

     – added 36,229 jobs since 2010, up 5%
    Median hourly earnings – $16.47

  • Inspectors, Testers, Sorters, Samplers and Weighers 

    – added 34,424 jobs since 2010, up 8%
    Median hourly earnings – $16.81

  • Medical Assistants

     – added 29,949 jobs since 2010, up 5%
    Median hourly earnings – $14.35

  • Computer-Controlled Machine Tool Operators

     – added 21,307 jobs since 2010, up 17%
    Median hourly earnings – $17.14

  • Oil, Gas and Mining Service Unit Operators

     – added 16,690 jobs since 2010, up 38%
    Median hourly earnings – $20.16

States Fostering Middle-Wage Growth

Wyoming leads the nation in the percentage of middle-wage jobs added in a state post-recession.  Forty-five percent of new jobs that were created in Wyoming since 2010 have been middle-wage, well ahead of other high-performing states: Iowa(37%), North Dakota (36%), and Michigan (35%).

Texas (25%) and California (23%) have created the largest total number of new middle-wage jobs in the nation, but they're in the middle of the pack in terms of the share of all new jobs.

At the bottom, Rhode Island is the only state that's lost middle-wage jobs over the last few years. Meanwhile, Mississippi (10%) and New York (13%) have the lowest share of new middle-wage jobs among states that have seen job increases.

For a more detailed analysis, go to


Definition from the National Employment Law Project


EMSI data is collected from more than 90 federal and state sources, such as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau, and state labor departments.  EMSI removes suppressions often found in publicly available data and includes proprietors, creating a complete picture of the workforce.


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Darshan Shah

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