Since the 2001 recession, the American work force has contributed to a robust 20 percent growth in productivity, as measured by the gross national product.

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Since the 2001 recession, the American work force has contributed to a robust 20 percent growth in productivity, as measured by the gross national product.

Yet seven years into this economic cycle, most middle-class American households have less inflation-adjusted income than they had when it started.

The 140-million-strong work force has engaged in efficient, profitable production, “but when it comes to being rewarded for the work they do, that’s a different story,” said Jared Bernstein, co-author of “The State of Working America 2008-2009,” released in part online on Aug. 26.

“Paychecks are frozen, pensions are in trouble, jobs are outsourced … and there was uniquely weak job creation,” he said.

Bernstein and his co-authors emphasized that it took an unprecedented four years after 2001 to regain the number of jobs lost.

The protracted “jobless recovery” saw corporate profits and executive pay rise, but sluggish job growth — at an average annual rate of just 0.6 percent from 2000 to 2007 — helped dampen wages and salaries and upward mobility for most working folk.

Particularly notable about the stagnant pay is that it affected not just the lowest-paid or least-skilled, but college-degreed, professional workers as well.

The exception in compensation gains was for the top 1 percent of earners. In 2004, the most recent data available, “average wealth held by the top 1 percent was close to $15 million, while it was $81,000 for households in the middle fifth of the wealth distribution,” the report says.

“Approximately 30 percent of U.S. households have a net worth of less than $10,000, and approximately 1 in 6 households have zero or negative net wealth.”

Stock ownership is particularly unequal, “with most Americans having no meaningful stake in the stock market,” the report says.

This is bad news, given that the prospect of an economically comfortable retirement for most working Americans lies in their ability to contribute to defined-contribution pension plans or individual retirement savings accounts — most of which count on good stock-market returns.

The 11th edition of the “Working America” report is a product of the Economic Policy Institute, an independent policy research organization that advocates “shared prosperity.”

The report also zeros in on another aspect of job deterioration: erosion of employer-subsidized health insurance and employer-provided pensions from 2000 to 2006. Many workers have lost coverage or have been asked to contribute more out-of-pocket dollars to those plans.

Bernstein and colleagues Lawrence Mishel, Heidi Shierholz and Ross Eisenbrey said data analysis led them to conclude that “You’re-on-Your-Own” economic policies produced unequivocal results in the 2000-07 period.

“Families are ill-served,” the report says. “For the first time in the history of data going back to 1947, middle-income families were left no better off at the end of this business cycle in 2007 than they were in 2000.”

Several chapters of the publication are accessible online at www.epi.org. The complete book will be published in January.