The revival of middle-class jobs has been one of Obama's mantras since he took office in 2009 fighting the worst economic crisis in generations ... Obama's administration can take credit for stabilizing the U.S. economy, which is growing again and last year added jobs at the fastest clip since 1999.But for the middle class the scars of the recession still run deep. Federal Reserve survey data show families in the middle fifth of the income scale now earn less and their net worth is lower than when Obama took office.In the six years through 2013, over the recession and recovery that have spanned Obama's tenure, jobs have been added at the top and bottom of the wage scale, a Reuters analysis of labor statistics shows. In the middle, the economy has shed positions - whether in traditional trades like machining or electrical work, white-collar jobs in human resources, or technical ones like computer operators.The trend is in plain sight in Dalton, Georgia, a manufacturing hub 90 miles (145 km)north of Atlanta. Massive factories that made it "the carpet capital of the world," were slammed by the collapse of the housing bubble. During the recession, with machines idle, they began investing heavily in new technology and are now laying plans to restore some lost jobs.But the new positions are more skewed to the high and low end, and there will be fewer of them per dollar of output than before the recession, said Brian Anderson, president of the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce."We can produce a whole lot of new carpet with not a lot more people," Anderson said. Companies have spent between $1.5 and $2 billion on retooling and innovation, reducing demand for labor, while higher than average regional unemployment continued to hold down wages, he said.
The Fed's Survey of Consumer Finances shows how uneven the distribution of that stimulus has been. Between 2010 and 2013, as recovery took hold and stock markets soared, the average net worth of families in the top 40 percent of income earners grew. For all others average net worth shrank, declining 19 percent for the middle fifth.
Obama "had a good start in ending the recession and a good start to recovery and then we were knocked off that trajectory," said Josh Bivens, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank that advocates higher minimum wages and other policies to boost incomes.Bivens blamed the end of stimulus programs and a standoff in Congress over the federal debt ceiling that curbed government spending for the loss of initial momentum.To a degree the administration has also been a captive of broad technological and global trends. Automation and the offshoring of manufacturing and service jobs continue to transform industries and communities such as Dalton.