Welcome to the New Economy. Would You Like Fries with That?

Unemployed Americans hoping for a return to normalcy once the economy “recovers” and they return to work may be in for a rude awakening as four of the five fastest growing occupations in the U.S. pay well below the median wage, according to The Economic Policy Institute.

Of the nation’s fastest growing occupations, the only one that pays above the May 2009 median wage of $15.95 per hour, is that of a registered nurse. They make, on average, $30.65 per hour.

All the other occupations most readily available not only pay below the median wage, but oftentimes are hovering just above the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

Other than registered nurses, the fastest growing occupation in the country is that of medical assistants, who make just $13.77 per hour.

Next in line are warehouse stock clerks. They make just $10.88 per hour.

Home health aids follow and, despite being in the medical field, they make just $9.85 per hour.

Food preparation workers make just $8.28 per hour on average. According to the Economic Policy Institute, those workers would make just over $16,000 annually, putting them just above the 2009 poverty line for a family of three.

Those findings mirror the U.S. Labor Department’s 2009 Occupational Employment and Wages report, which found that high-paying manufacturing jobs are rapidly disappearing, only to be replaced by low-paying, and oftentimes menial, service sector jobs that produce absolutely nothing of value.

The report found that retail sales, cashiers, general office clerks, food preparation and service workers, and nurses were the occupations with the highest levels of employment in 2009.

In fact, nine of the top 10 jobs in the survey pay such low wages that they put a worker supporting a family of four in near poverty.

The findings are symptomatic of America’s failed trade policy, which has allowed the nation’s manufacturing base to be gradually offshored to low-wage nations, leaving only low paying service sector jobs in their wake.

A study by The Pittsburgh Post Gazette, which looked at the trend line of the same numbers over the past ten years, found that millions of manufacturing jobs were disappearing, as fast food workers increased by 43 percent. Child care employment increased 68 percent over the decade as the number of one-income households dwindle due to the lack of jobs that pay well enough to support a family.

Over that same time, high-paying, goods producing manufacturing jobs have been rapidly disappearing.

Since 1979, manufacturing employment has fallen by 7.8 million, or 40 percent.

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