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What happened to the "good jobs"? A look at the decline of jobs that supported middle class life

The decline of good jobs
Job opportunities have gotten worse for many Americans 06:53

The number of unemployed Americans looking for work has plummeted to pre-pandemic levels, according to the U.S. Bureau Of Labor Statistics.  

But workers are also quitting in record numbers. Job opening reached a near-record high with businesses looking to fill a record 11.1 million slots, the Labor Department said this month. 

Some experts say it is a sign the U.S. has plenty of jobs — just not enough of what many would consider "good" ones. 

Dijon Lucius has worked at Kellogg's cereal plant in Battle Creek, Michigan, for two years. The 30-year-old was very excited about the job when he was first hired.  

"I was ecstatic. I was. I told everybody that day. I called my mom. I told my wife, was happy," Lucius told "CBS Mornings" co-host Tony Dokoupil. 

But while many line workers at Kellogg's still have pensions, premium healthcare and great wages, other workers like Lucius get less—no pensions, pricier healthcare and less pay than colleagues who do the exact same job. 

Lucius said he makes $15 less than some of the coworkers he works alongside with. He said that there are two classes of workers at Kellogg's and he is in the lower class. 

Kellogg's operates on a two-tier contract system. Since the 1980s, companies in dozens of industries have used it to cut costs by lowering pay for new hires like Lucius.  

Lucius believes if he could receive the same money that some of his coworkers receive, he'd be able to buy a house and start putting money into his children's college savings. 

In a statement to CBS News, Kellogg's notes "the union agreed to a two-tiered system in 2015," which the company says is "not unusual in any industry as a way to control rising benefits costs."  

Rick Wartzman from the Drucker Institute said that's both true and the problem.

"America was more of a 'we' culture, and in more recent decades I think we've become an 'I' culture," Wartzman said.

In his book, "The End of Loyalty: The Rise and Fall of Good Jobs in America," Wartzman details why wages for the typical worker rose right alongside productivity after World War II. But he writes that more recently, "the corporate compact has come completely undone.

 "How big of a deal was it for this compact to break down?" Dokoupil asked. 

"For it to break down? It's a huge deal. Tony, this last, you know, 40-50 year period, we have left so many people trailing so far behind," Wartzman said. He blames familiar changes like automating jobs and moving them overseas. 

But he also points to a less appreciated change: a shift in the culture of the business itself, tying CEO pay to the stock price and valuing investors ahead of everyone else.

"So, there's a real, frankly, personal incentive for all too many to try and do all kinds of things to see the share price go up and worry a lot less about those on the front lines," Wartzman said.

 Work at all of Kellogg Co.'s U.S. cereal plants came to a halt in October after workers went on strike. 

Along with "transitional employees" like Lucius, on the picket line include Kellogg's workers considered "legacy employees"  who have been grandfathered into a better deal.  

Among those on the picket line include Kellogg's workers who are considered "legacy employees" and have been grandfathered into a better deal.  

One worker said she is striking because she wants her niece and nephews to have what she has.  

"We're doing it for the next generation," another person said. 

But with many everyday Americans fed up, the question is: Where can they really go? 

Among the 10 jobs that will add the most positions in America this decade are: home health aides, fast food workers and general laborers – with a median salary of just over $30,000. That means many Americans like Lucius are not left with a lot of good options for good jobs. 

"If you don't do this, what are you gonna do?" Dokoupil asked. 

"I have no idea. I don't think there will be any good-paying jobs. This is an example of what I think everybody needs to fight for," Lucius said.  

While there is job growth in our country, there is a big gap between the ones that pay well and the ones that don't. 

CBS News analyzed the ten jobs expected to add the most positions this decade which don't require advanced degrees. The typical salary for those jobs is just shy of $28,000. According to researchers at MIT, the living wage in the US is around $34,404, which would be equivalent to being paid $16.50 an hour.  

Many experts believe a big reason those jobs are hard to find is that creating them is not a priority for companies—the priority is the stock price.

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