Wages for many American workers continue to decline, hitting workers the most in industries where demand for work is increasing, a new study found. One explanation via the Brookings Institution is that immigrants fill a disproportionate share of those jobs.
The New York Times covered the National Employment Law Project study:
“Despite steady gains in hiring, a falling unemployment rate and other signs of an improving economy, take-home pay for many American workers has effectively fallen since the economic recovery began in 2009 …
“The declines were greatest for the lowest-paid workers in sectors where hiring has been strong — home health care, food preparation and retailing — even though wages were already below average to begin with in those service industries.”
The study raises the question: Why would wages be falling the most in industries with greater demand for workers?
The Times notes that “macroeconomic forces like automation, demographics and globalization” are contributing to falling wages, and refers to ongoing slack in the labor market — the labor supply is still outstripping the (increasing) demand for work.
One explanation the Times doesn’t mention directly is that immigrants share a disproportionately high share of these jobs, and are to some extent crowding American workers out of these low-skilled, high in demand industries.
A 2012 Brookings Institution report found that many of the jobs in the occupations deemed fastest and largest growing by the Bureau of Labor Statistics are going to immigrants — in many of the same occupations the Times reports have seen the greatest decline in wages in recent years.
The NELP report lists restaurant cooks, food preparation workers, home and personal care aides and cleaning service jobs as those that have taken the biggest hit in wages. Real wages for restaurant cooks have declined 8.9 percent since 2009.