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Low Wage Workers Make Gains in Struggling California Economy

The only good economic news for California workers is for those at the very bottom of the labor market heap. That’s according to analysis by a labor research center at UC Berkeley. KPBS reporter Alis

Low Wage Workers Make Gains in Struggling California Economy

The only good economic news for California workers is for those at the very bottom of the labor market heap. That’s according to analysis by a labor research center at UC Berkeley. KPBS reporter Alison St John has more.

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Job growth slowed last year in California, mainly because of the slowdown in construction -- there were 12,000 fewer construction jobs. Plus U.C.  Berkley’s Center for Labor Research show unemployment rose to over 5 percent and the value of real wages fell in California, even as real wages rose slightly in the nation as a whole.

Analyst Arindrajit Dube says the prognosis for wage increases next year is poor.  

<b> Dube: </b> And particularly for California for the coming year in terms of  the wages and purchasing power of working Americans does not look terribly good, but there is a silver lining here, and that silver lining has to do with those at the very bottom of the market.

Dube says low wage workers who have been the hardest hit in the economic down-turn  after 2001 are finally showing some gains.

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<b> Dube: </b> So after four years in a row of declines, real wages rose at the very bottom.

Dube says increases in the state’s minimum wage from $6.65 to $7.50  is the reason.

He says in general, wages grew faster than productivity last year, but there is some wiggle room for wages to grow because earlier  productivity gains  were funneled into corporate profits.

Alison St John, KPBS news.