On top of that, there are about four unemployed workers vying for every opening, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, so a lot of people are competing for the same jobs. "It's a very loose labor market … so employers can dictate the terms of what they're going to pay people when there are people lining up to take that job," DiNatale says.
In the most recent period of economic expansion from 2003 to 2007, Moody's found the same trend of mostly low-paying jobs being created, but not to the same extent. "It seems like in every expansion, we're losing more and more high-wage jobs, and we're adding even more of the lower-wage jobs," DiNatale says.
Job cuts by state and local governments are one of the major differences this time around. Generally, public-sector jobs make up a large part of the mid-wage and high-wage occupations. Since June 2009, the public sector has shed about 580,000 jobs, as state and local governments try to close budget gaps.
Because local governments mostly rely on property taxes—and Moody's sees home prices continuing to fall in 2012—DiNatale expects local government cuts to continue well into next year. "Even though house prices have been going down for a few years now, many people are just getting their property tax bill reassessed now," she says. "Probably for at least the next year, we're going to continue to see big layoffs in local government."
Corrected on 11/10/11: A previous version of this story misstated the name of the National Employment Law Project.