Thursday AM August 28th, 2008

The Washington-based think tank says productivity began growing more quickly starting in 1995. But the report says there's a stunning disconnect between rapid productivity growth and pay growth. EPI's Jared Bernstein says for the first time on record, the median household is no better off at the end of this business cycle than at the beginning, in spite of rapidly-rising productivity.

"When it comes to efficient, profitable production, the men and women of the American work force have a lot to be proud of. But when it comes to being rewarded for the work that they do--the skills they've sharpened, the contributions they make--well, that's a different story. Their paychecks have been frozen, their health coverage is being cut back, they're facing greater global competition and their pensions are more precarious than ever."

EPI's Heidi Shierholz says the job market is the primary way that economic growth reaches most families, and recovery from a recession depends on job growth. Historically, it takes less than 21 months after a recession to regain the prior employment levels.

"Job growth over the business cycle of the 2000s average only 0.6 per cent per year, which is well below what's needed simply to keep up with the ever-expanding population of workers. And by comparison, over the business cycle of the 90s, jobs grew three times that fast."

The State of Working America 2008-2009 suggests there are factors tilting against the bargaining power of American workers--increased global trade, less union membership and more low-skilled immigration. The report says there are fewer social norms guiding employer behavior on pensions and health care arrangements. Ed Mayberry, Houston Public Radio News.


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