McJob Creation

Maybe we really are becoming a nation of hamburger flippers.

What else could we conclude after reading the news this week that McDonald’s is set to hire 50,000 new workers in the U.S. as the economy recovers? To be fair, some of these will be management jobs that pay as much as $50,000 a year. And McDonald’s notes that half of its franchise owners began by working as crew members in one of its restaurants.

Yet many of the positions being created will offer around $8 an hour—not exactly a living wage. “The problem is these aren’t jobs you can really sustain yourself with,” Bill Newton, executive director of the Florida Consumer Action Network, told a reporter.

At the least, the McDonald’s hiring spree seems a symbol of an economy that, as the unemployment rate finally begins to fall, is generating a disproportionate number of low-wage jobs. The National Employment Law Project put out a report in February showing lower-wage industries (such as fast food and retailing, with hourly earnings of $9.03 to $12.91) accounted for 23 percent of the jobs lost during the Great Recession, but 49 percent of the jobs added during the last year.

[EXPAND More]The NELP analysis noted that this is different than during the recovery from the 2001 recession, when there was “significantly more growth in higher-wage industries.”

As we’ve discussed before, Peter Drucker was concerned that service workers might be left behind in a knowledge age, and believed that increasing their productivity was the key to eventually providing them with decent wages. ‘The productivity of the non-knowledge, services worker will become the social challenge of the knowledge society,” Drucker wrote. “On it will depend the ability of the knowledge society to give decent incomes, and with them dignity and status, to non-knowledge workers.”

But can we get there?

“It is too early to predict whether the pattern of unbalanced, bottom-heavy growth will continue,” the NELP report concluded. “But these findings do suggest that for unemployed workers, as well as for those seeking to move up in the labor market or entering it for the first time, the current distribution of job opportunities has deteriorated, compared to before the recession.”

What do you think: What kind of jobs is America poised to produce in the future—and if the answer is “lots of low-wage ones,” how do we turn that around?[/EXPAND]