Campaigns/Elections

Data: Wage Wars

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John Kerry has repeatedly claimed that new jobs in the U.S. pay $9,000 less, on average, than those lost to offshore outsourcing. An ad put out by the pro-Democrat group MoveOn shows a fiftyish man who lost his job to a foreign worker. He has, according to the narration, finally found another job. As the man slips on a paper hat and strides into a burger joint, the announcer asks, "Is this what you worked your whole life for?"

But as analysts at the Annenberg Public Policy Center have noted, Kerry's figure is based on the average pay in industries where jobs are being gained and lost. That measure doesn't distinguish between an industry that's hiring managers or computer technicians while firing janitors and one that's doing the reverse.

The trend that emerges from Bureau of Labor Statistics data is, if anything, the opposite of Mc-Jobification. The Chicago Federal Reserve's September newsletter notes that even if one focuses on broad industry categories, higher-paying sectors account for a disproportionate share of recent job growth. Inconsistencies between the bureau's "payroll" and "household" surveys do leave some room for doubt, but it's a bit early to get fitted for that paper hat.

Graph (not available online): Average Number of Jobs Above and Below Median Wage

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