We are right to cheer the news that by adding 217,000 jobs in May the U.S. economy has regained all the jobs lost during the Great Recession. But we would be remiss if we didn't note that while the numbers are at the same level, the jobs themselves surely are not equivalent.
Many of the jobs lost in late 2007 and through 2008 were good paying, middle class jobs that have not returned.
In their place, many of the new jobs are service industry, meaning people who were making a nice living wage prior to the Wall Street debacle are now barely scraping by on minimum wage and slightly higher jobs in restaurants or retail.
"The share of Americans working in manufacturing, construction and for the government -- typically good-paying fields -- has fallen, while more are working in the leisure and hospitality sector and other generally lower-paying service jobs," wrote Eric Morath for the Wall Street Journal.
The strongest growth sectors have been in healthcare and social assistance.
According to the Department of Labor, by 2010, the economy had lost 8.7 million jobs. The U.S. economy has added at least 200,000 jobs each month since February, the longest such stretch since September 1999 to January 2000.
"Things are improving, but it's happening agonizingly slowly," Heidi Shierholz, a labor market economist at the Economic Policy Institute, told the Los Angeles Times. "At the pace we are currently going, it will take nearly four more years to get back to pre recession labor market conditions."
But Shierholz told the Times that the economy is still 6.9 million jobs short of where it was at the start of the recession, given the addition of 14.5 million working-age people to the labor force.
Even though the unemployment rate held steady at 6.3 percent, with the same number of jobs in 2008 it was 5 percent.
"While conditions in the labor market have improved appreciably, they are still far from satisfactory," Janet Yellen, the chairwoman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, told the congressional Joint Economic Committee on May 7.
While this process has been slower than we all would like, it is hoped that continued steady job growth will put more money in everyone's pockets and increase our confidence that we are on a road to recovery.
Though the Department of Labor reported that the average hourly wage for private sector workers rose a nickel in May to $24.38, we are wondering exactly who that average worker is, or who is on the high end that is driving up the average, because there are a lot of people making a lot less than $24 an hour. A more accurate number might be the median wage for the first quarter of 2014, which was $796, according to the BLS. But still, that's nearly $20 an hour. We wonder how many people reading this are making that much.
Nonetheless, the fact the economy keeps growing and adding jobs is a good sign, especially considering the nature of Republican obstructionism in Washington, D.C., and in state legislatures around the country. We wonder how much better off we would be today if instead of standing in the way of the policies of a popularly elected president, Republicans had contributed to the nation's advancement. Instead, they pandered to their base by inciting hatred, racism, misogyny and fear, and all only to try to reclaim their slowly fading stranglehold on America.
Just as the economy is slowly improving despite Republican's punishing the average American as a result of their political machinations, the right wing's narrow perspective is also slowly drifting away. We look forward to the day when both the economy is providing good paying jobs and the Republican party as we know it today is history.