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In new pool of jobs, pay has taken a dive

Anybody happen to see a $5,374 paycheck lying around? Florida seems to have lost it.

The Sunshine State is one of 48 states to see jobs shifting in the past few years from higher-paying industries to lower-paying ones. On average, Florida jobs in growing industries pay $29,979, or $5,374 less than jobs that paid $35,353 in contracting industries.

That amounts to a 15 percent pay cut between November 2001 _ the end of the recession _ and November 2003. So says an analysis released this week by researchers at the Economic Policy Institute.

The overall quality of newly created jobs is diminishing across Florida and the United States, says economist Michael Ettlinger, a co-author of the report.

Are we going backward? Are we so busy crowing about Florida as a producer of new jobs _ 208,000 from late 2001 to late 2003 _ that we forgot the new work pays less? Are we so anxious to embrace 2004 as the Year of the Big Bounceback that we're ignoring an ominous sign?

Maybe we are facing less of a "jobless recovery" and more of a "new job, cheaper pay" recovery.

If Florida continues to create more jobs that pay less, eventually it will hit us all right in our standard of living. It's tough to buy a new home (especially with the sharp rise in housing prices), a car or even shop at the mall with a $5,373 pay cut.

If this has a familiar ring, it should. From 1990 to 2000, Florida dropped from 33rd to 40th among the states in median household income. In 2002, an arm of the Florida Chamber of Commerce issued part of its "New Cornerstone" report _ an economic state of the state _ warning that in jobs, Florida was slipping further behind the nation's average wage.

It's not just a Florida thing. In every state but Nebraska and Nevada, new jobs created from 2001 to 2003 in expanding industries are paying less than jobs in dwindling lines of business. Using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, researchers from the Economic Policy Institute found that industries nationwide are adding jobs that pay 21 percent _ or $9,160 _ less annually than industries losing jobs.

That's big: an average U.S. drop in pay from $44,570 to $35,410.

This grim message supports the findings This grim message supports the findings of a job report issued late last year by the market research firm Global Insight and commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. That analysis found that the average annual salary of the portions of the economy expected to produce new jobs in the next two years will average about $8,000 less than the paychecks of jobs lost in shrinking sectors of the economy.

We get caught up in the talk of job quantity. Maybe that's because the nation has still lost far more jobs than it has created during the years of the Bush administration. In the hubbub, we overlook the warnings about job quality.

In practical terms, we are adding more lower-paying jobs at hotels, restaurants and other hospitality and leisure businesses. But we are losing jobs in manufacturing, information technology and other higher-paying fields.

Some of those jobs simply evaporated in the economic slowdown. Other jobs are not being created because of sharp productivity gains _ the ability to squeeze more work from the same number of workers. Still other jobs _ increasingly those that pay well _ are heading overseas to lower-cost countries.

The wage dip in new jobs was not always the case. As recently as the late 1990s, according to the policy institute, the pattern in pay was the opposite. More new jobs were created in higher-paying than in lower-paying work.

There is a silver lining in Florida. The state's 15-percent decline in new job pay is less severe than that found in most other states. In such hard-hit states as Massachusetts, California, Delaware and Wyoming, new jobs in growing industries pay a whopping 40 percent less than jobs in shrinking industries.

Years ago, we dismissed the idea that we were becoming an economy of low-paid burger flippers. Were we premature?

_ Robert Trigaux can be reached at trigauxsptimes.com or (727) 893-8405.

New jobs pay less

Industries generating new jobs are paying less on average than the jobs that are disappearing. Figures reflect pay declines from the official end of the national recession in November 2001 through November 2003. Some examples:

Growing Contracting

Industry wage Industry wage Difference

Florida $29,929 $35,353 -15%

North Carolina $33,926 $38,041 -11

California $34,742 $57,800 -40

Texas $31,663 $48,751 -35

New York $34,081 $54,537 -38

United States $35,410 $44,570 -21

Source: Economic Policy Institute, Bureau of Labor Statistics

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