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‘Middle-wage’ job growth accelerates, NY Fed chief says

William Dudley, president of the New York Federal

William Dudley, president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, visits Brookhaven National Lab on March 19, 2012. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Jobs in construction, education, automotive repair and other “middle-wage” occupations have increased on Long Island and in the nation at a faster rate than other types of jobs for the first time since the 2007-09 recession, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported Thursday.

In Nassau and Suffolk counties, middle-wage jobs — broadly defined as paying a median wage of around $30,000 to $60,000 per year — grew by 15,790 positions between 2013 and last year, according to the bank.

That compares with rises of 14,030 for higher-wage jobs and 10,640 for lower-wage jobs in the same period on the Island.

Higher-wage jobs are defined as paying a median wage of more than $60,000 per year and include attorneys, physicians, scientists, engineers and managers. Lower-wage jobs pay less than $30,000 per year and include health care aides, farmers, store clerks, janitors and food preparers, the bank said.

Between 2010 and 2013, the number of middle-wage jobs in Nassau and Suffolk shrank by 5,460 positions while higher-wage jobs grew by 13,030 and lower-wage jobs were up 25,120.

“The tide has begun to turn,” New York Fed president William C. Dudley said.

“For the first time in quite a while, gains in middle-wage jobs actually outnumber gains in higher- and lower-wage jobs,” he told reporters at a briefing in the bank’s headquarters in lower Manhattan. “I believe this is an important development in the economy, because, if it were to continue, it would create more opportunities for workers and their families who have been struggling up to now.”

Dudley also noted gains in middle-wage jobs were more pronounced in the country at large than in the New York metropolitan area, where the increases “have been more evident in some places than others.”

In the metropolitan area that includes New York City and eight suburban counties in the state, middle-wage jobs increased by 178,850 positions between 2013 and 2015. That compares with gains of 130,450 for high-wage jobs and 156,690 for low-wage jobs.

Between 2010 and 2013, the gain in middle-wage jobs in the metro area was much smaller than the gains for higher-wage jobs and lower-wage jobs.

New York Fed economist Jaison Abel said the creation of more middle-wage jobs in 2013-15 was due to a revival in home construction and goods manufacturing as economic growth accelerates. He also said school districts were hiring again “as local government fiscal pressures have eased.”

In terms of employment in New York City, bank economist Jason Bram said Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx “had stronger growth than Manhattan” in part because Wall Street hasn’t hired as many people as in previous economic recoveries.

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