Recovery Fueled By Low-Wage Jobs

More than one million jobs have been created in the United States within the past six months.

That's the good news.

The downside is that more than half of these new jobs, or nearly 668,000, were created in the restaurant, retail, temporary service, social assistance and hospitality sectors. In other words, low-wage jobs, most without health benefits or paid sick leave.

It's a frightening trend we discuss in the final chapter of our newly released book, The Rich & the Rest of Us. Every month since 2001, the United States has lost an average of 50,000 good-paying manufacturing jobs. Almost seven out of every ten of those lost jobs were in the construction, truck driving, warehouse or other blue-collar sectors.

Last week, MSNBC/MSN.COM reported that hiring in the food service industry is expected to boom this summer. More than 530,000 food service jobs have already been added to the workforce since the end of the recession. Experts estimate that another 425,000 food-related jobs will be added during the summer months which top last year's numbers. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the article further states that "food services and accommodation employment is projected to be the sixth biggest job generator through 2020, creating 1 million new jobs."

It really is good news that there's some job growth in our country but, as the article points out; "the growth of low-paying food service jobs that often don't come with health benefits or paid sick time, may not bode well for the overall health of the economy."

This is a reality that we must come to grips with if we are serious about ending the perilous slide of America's middle and working class into the abyss of poverty. As manufacturing jobs are outsourced overseas, labor unions are weakened, corporations place profit over people and the middle class is on the verge of elimination due to the rapidly growing divide between the rich and the poor--we cannot bury our heads in the sand.

We end The Rich and the Rest of Us with a call to address income inequality with the "Three P's: Priority, Plan, and Path." We suggest that the elimination of poverty should become a national priority, and challenge the next president of the United States to invite our nation's best minds to wrap their heads around viable solutions that will lead the nation on a pragmatic strategic path to accomplish this urgent goal.

With corporate profits soaring, good jobs and the middle class vanishing and more and more Americans falling into poverty, the need for an immediate and workable solution has never been greater.

Tavis Smiley and Cornel West co-host Smiley & West from Public Radio International (PRI). Their latest book is The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto.