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Long-Term Job Trends Are Better -- and Worse -- Than They Appear

Data source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

While there are more total jobs today than before the recession, the mix of jobs has changed. Manufacturing -- declining for decades -- is more than 1.5 million jobs below pre-recession levels, and the construction industry has given up just as many. Government payrolls are down a half-million, though that isn't an accurate representation of government workers, as it excludes contractors, which have taken on a larger role in recent years.

Here's a look at the data from 2010 to now:

From the low point in the recession, nearly 10 million net workers have been added, even as some sectors -- most notably government employment and some kinds of manufacturing -- have continued to shed jobs. And while it is good that so many jobs have been created, the issue -- again -- lies with the kinds of work that are available.

Data source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Nearly 7 million jobs that pay below median income levels have been created, while less than 5 million jobs paying at or above the median household income have been created at the same time. Of the 11.9 million new jobs created in the sectors which have added jobs, fully one-third of those jobs pay less than $16.50 per hour. Here are the average wages by sector:

Needless to say, when the lowest paying sector -- leisure and hospitality -- is the second-largest source of new jobs since the bottom of the job market, it's a disturbing trend. The bigger issue is what it represents: not just the widening gap between the rich and the middle class, but a widening gap between the poor and everyone else.

Data source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Needless to say, when the lowest paying sector -- leisure and hospitality -- is the second-largest source of new jobs since the bottom of the job market, it's a disturbing trend. The bigger issue is what it represents: not just the widening gap between the rich and the middle class, but a widening gap between the poor and everyone else.

Bucking the trend with energy?

It's tough to predict with any real accuracy, but there are some positive trends. Some manufacturing is showing growth -- especially operations that are energy-intensive or use a feedstock like natural gas, ethane or other natural gas liquids. Dow Chemical and BASF , two of the largest chemical companies in the world, have both committed to billions of dollars in U.S. manufacturing expansion, almost exclusively on the back of cheap domestic natural gas and natural gas liquids supply and prices. The jobs created by these efforts can pay upwards of $30 per hour on average.

This little molecule -- ethane -- could lead to half a million manufacturing jobs in the U.S.

This same trend is driving the growth in the mining and logging segment, as domestic oil and gas producers continue to increase output and add jobs that on average pay between $28 and $39 per hour. Since peaking in 2006, the U.S. has been slowly reducing its net imports of oil, and last November, actually exported more oil products than were imported for the first time in almost 20 years. Proved oil and gas resources indicate somewhere around 100 years of supply at hand, meaning that these job gains are likely to be sustained. Factor in the massive investments in expanded domestic manufacturing -- as much as $100 billion already committed by some estimates -- and there are some potential bright spots going forward.

No easy answers, but it could be worse

I know that's not much consolation if you're one of the hundreds of thousands of long-term unemployed, but the reality is, there's not one simple answer to how to -- or what will -- spark higher paying job creation, outside of economic demand. With that said, this recovery isn't pretty, but it's the one we've got.

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The article Long-Term Job Trends Are Better -- and Worse -- Than They Appear originally appeared on Fool.com.

Jason Hall has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days . We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy .

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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