The State of Working PA This Labor Day

Chris Lilienthal |

Coming on the heels of a day when thousands of fast food workers in 50 U.S. cities walked off the job to protest low wages, the Keystone Research Center is out with a report showing there is ample reason for discontent among Pennsylvania workers.

The State of Working Pennsylvania, Keystone’s annual Labor Day check in on how working Pennsylvanians are faring in today’s economy, found that since 2010 job growth in the commonwealth has slowed, wages have fallen across the board, and the number of poverty-wage jobs in the commonwealth has jumped by 11%.

As this chart shows, the slowdown in job growth has been dramatic, with Pennsylvania adding nearly as many jobs in the first full year following the Great Recession (2010) as it has in the two and a half years since.

Figure 1.1 Overall Job Growth in PA Has Slowed Down

The report also found that in recent years — and over longer periods — most middle-class Pennsylvania families have seen their wages stagnate. In fact, after adjusting for inflation, wages have fallen for low-, middle-, and high-wage workers alike since 2010, even though productivity in the economy has grown.

Figure 2.1. Wages for PA Workers Decline as Unemployment Remains High in 2012

These recent economic trends follow some good Pennsylvania economic news last month when a new study by Harvard and Berkeley economists reported that most parts of the state outpaced the rest of the U.S. in intergenerational upward mobility from the late 1990s to 2010-2011. But as Keystone labor economist Mark Price said, if we keep shrinking the middle class, the tide will turn and the next generation of Pennsylvanians will fall behind.

We’ll be back after Labor Day with more blog posts delving into the details of the State of Working Pennsylvania. Have a great weekend.