Speed Reads

the coronavirus crisis

High-wage workers are getting all the jobs

Low-wage workers have borne the brunt of job losses in the United States during the coronavirus pandemic, research conducted by economists at the New York Federal Reserve shows.

The worst stretch came when the virus first took hold in the U.S. in March and April. At that stage only high-wage workers (in the study this refers to anyone making more than $85,000 annually) saw their job rates remain steady, while the lowest wage-earning group (individuals making less than $30,000 annually) experienced the most significant decline, at more than 33 percent. The two middle-wage groups — those earning between $30,000 and $50,000 and $50,000 and $85,000 — declined at 18 percent and nine percent, respectively.

The economic situation improved throughout the summer, and subsequently the employment gap between wage groups narrowed "considerably," but things took a turn for the worse again in the fall. Now, while high-wage earners are actually employed at rates slightly above pre-pandemic levels, low-wage worker employment remains 14 percent below and trending downward.

The New York Fed suggests, as one might imagine, these trends are related to the fact that many industries that have been hit the hardest — hospitality and retail, for instance — employ a higher amount low-wage workers, while high-wage workers often have more flexibility in their jobs and can work remotely. Read more about the research findings here. Tim O'Donnell