But there's some bad news about jobs, too: Many of them don't pay as much as they used to. The recession that officially ended in 2009 zapped about eight million jobs, and overall there are still about 14 million unemployed Americans. A surplus of workers in many fields is likely to keep pay flat for awhile. And in some industries, deeper changes like aggressive offshoring or the replacement of workers with new technology could depress wages indefinitely. Government data shows that average weekly earnings have crept up by about 6.6 percent since the end of 2007, when the recession began. But after inflation, the increase is just 1.4 percent. And that's only for people who have jobs, since the unemployed aren't counted in data measuring the size of the typical paycheck.
Usually, a recovering economy pushes pay back up, as slack in the labor market tightens and companies ramp up hiring, paying more if that's what it takes to get needed workers. But that may not happen anytime soon, leaving many families with income that fails to keep up with inflation.
Here are five reasons to expect stagnant incomes in coming years:
Companies don't need that many workers.
Too many workers have the wrong skills.
High-paying jobs aren't coming back so fast.
Fewer middle-aged men are working.
Homeowners can't move.