Charts of the week: Middle class wages; rural communities; the labor force

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This week’s selection of charts, graphs, or maps from Brookings experts’ research.

How the great recession hurt middle class wage growth

Brad Hershbein writes that the “[economic] numbers suggest that the Great Recession is finally behind us. But some people aren’t feeling it, especially if they happen to be in the middle class.” Real hourly wage growth from 2006-2016—just before and just after the recession—was strongest for the top 40 percent of earners, but weaker for all other quintiles, especially the second and third. In his analysis, Hershbein also describes a geographical component to middle-class wage loss.

Isolated rural communities experience declining employment

Nathan Arnosti and Amy Liu cite analysis by Metropolitan Policy Program colleagues Mark Muro and Jacob Whiton that shows that rural counties not adjacent to a metropolitan area experienced a decline in employment of 3.5 percent compared to 1.9 percent for rural areas that are near cities. Arnosti and Liu argue that “Given market realities and the bleak long-term prospects for many small towns, rural America’s best bet might be to support economic growth in urban centers, including micropolitan areas, and strengthen linkages between urban and rural communities.”

U.S. employment by community type

Reasons why 47 million people are out of the labor force

In a new paper from The Hamilton Project on the idea of a federal job guarantee, the authors break down the working-age population (ages 18-64) by category. Their analysis shows that “the unemployed are actually a small portion (5.9 million) of those who might take up the guarantee jobs.” More than 47 million people are out of the labor force for reasons that include caregiving, being in school, retired, or sick/disabled.

Chart: working age population and labor force