Department of Labor Logo United States Department of Labor
Dot gov

The .gov means it's official.
Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you're on a federal government site.


The site is secure.
The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

The K-Shaped Recovery: Examining the Diverging Fortunes of Workers in the Recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic using Business and Household Survey Microdata

Michael Dalton, Jeffrey A. Groen, Mark A. Loewenstein, David S. Piccone, Jr., and Anne E. Polivka


This paper examines employment patterns by wage group over the course of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States using microdata from two well-known data sources from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: the Current Employment Statistics and the Current Population Survey. We find establishments paying the lowest average wages and the lowest wage workers had the steepest decline in employment and experienced the most persistent losses. We disentangle the extent to which the effect observed for low wage workers is due to these workers being concentrated within a few low wage sectors of the economy versus the pandemic affecting low wage workers in a number of sectors across the economy. Our results indicate that the experience of low wage workers is not entirely due to these workers being concentrated in low wage sectors—for many sectors, the lowest wage quintiles in that sector also has had the worst employment outcomes. From April 2020 to May 2021, between 23% and 46% of the decline in employment among the lowest wage establishments was due to within-industry changes. Another important finding is that even for those who remain employed during the pandemic, the probability of becoming part-time for economic reasons increased, especially for low-wage workers.