“Patchwork of Paychecks” Not Enough Jobs to Go Around

For Immediate Release
Dec. 8, 2015
Contact: Kathy Mulady
Communications director
kathy@allianceforajustsociety.org
(206) 992-8787

Patchwork of Paychecks

Only half of all job openings pay $15 an hour or more

It’s easy to tell a low-wage worker to “go get a better-paying job,” but the reality is there are nowhere near enough jobs that pay a living wage to go around. The occupations with the most job openings pay the least, and are often part-time.

New research by the Alliance for a Just Society released today shows that nationally there are seven job seekers for every job that pays at least $15 an hour. Only 54 percent of all job openings in the United States pay $15 an hour or more.

(Fact sheet here.)

In no state are there enough living wage job openings to go around.

Job seekers in California, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and South Carolina struggle the most, with 10 job seekers for every living wage job opening.

No state has fewer than three job seekers for every job opening that allows a single adult to make ends meet.

(State-by-state table of job seekers and job openings)

Patchwork of Paychecks gives a detailed look at the availability of living wage jobs and full-time work. Additionally, stories from workers juggling multiple jobs illustrate the struggle people face when they can’t find full time work, or work that pays enough.

“This report makes it painfully clear that the economy isn’t creating enough living wage jobs, and that lawmakers must take action to raise the wage floor for all workers and to enact other policies to support working families,” said Jill Reese, associate director of the Alliance for a Just Society.

Before the Great Recession, involuntary part-time workers made up 11 percent of all part-time workers. Since then they have consistently made up more than 20 percent of all part-time workers.

For millions of workers, living-wage work is out of reach – especially for women, Latinos and Latinas, and workers of color who are more likely to work part-time.

“The increasing shift to low-wage work doesn’t just mean less pay. For many workers, it means fewer hours at low wages, unpredictable schedules, wage theft, and no paid sick leave – making it impossible to ever get ahead,” said Allyson Fredericksen, author of “Patchwork of Paychecks.”

The Alliance for a Just Society, a national organization focusing on economic and racial justice, has produced reports on jobs and wages since 1999.

Patchwork of Paychecks is the second report in the Job Gap Economic Prosperity Series that is produced by the Alliance annually

Jill Reese, associate director of the Alliance, and Allyson Fredericksen, author of “Patchwork of Paychecks” are available for interviews.

For the full report: https://jobgap2013.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/patchwork_of_paychecks.pdf

State-by-state table of job seekers and job openings:

https://www.allianceforajustsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Patchwork-Table-2.pdf

Fact Sheet

“Patchwork of Paychecks”

  • Nationally, four of the top five fastest growing occupations pay less than $15 an hour. They are: retail salespersons; waiters and waitresses; cashiers; and food preparation and serving workers, including fast food.
  • Nationally, for jobs that pay at least $15 per hour, there are seven job seekers for every job opening.
  • The occupation category with the most projected job openings, retail salesperson, pays a median wage of $10.29 per hour.
  • Nationwide, there are more than 17.7 million job seekers. There are 5 million job openings total, paying any wage. Of those, 2.7 million pay at least $15 an hour.
  • In 34 states, less than half of all job openings pay enough for a single adult to make ends meet.
  • In California, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and South Carolina there are 10 job seekers for every living wage job opening.

People of Color

  • The Alliance reported last year that only 52 percent of full-time workers of color earn $15 per hour or more. This includes:
  • 51 percent of black workers
  • 50 percent of Native American workers.
  • 42 percent of full-time Latino and Latina workers
  • 57 percent of female workers earn at least $15 per hour.

Part-Time Work

  • The proportion of involuntary part-time workers is double what it was before the Great Recession (11 percent of part-time workers were involuntarily working part-time in 2007 compared to 21 percent in 2014).
  • Latinas and Latinos, and workers of color are more likely to work part-time in most states and nationally, making it even more difficult for them to make ends meet.
  • Part-time work also includes a number of other obstacles to making ends meet. Unpredictable or on-call scheduling is more common for part-time workers than for workers overall, and makes it nearly impossible to work more than one part-time job.

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NY Fast food workers win $15 minimum wage

Fast food workers in New York are getting a raise!

Hard work by our affiliates Citizen Action New York and Make the Road New York – along with dozens of other allied organizations and unions, and thousands of workers who took to the streets and shared their personal stories – has paid off  in a huge victory.

Yesterday, the New York State Wage Board approved gradually raising the minimum wage for New York City fast food chain employees to $15 an hour by 2018. Fast food workers throughout New York state will gradually raise to $15 an hour by 2021.

“This is a huge victory for fast food workers, and for everyone working for low wages in New York,” said LeeAnn Hall, executive director of the Alliance for a Just Society.  “It puts pressure on employers in other low-paying industries to start paying their workers a living wage.

“I applaud the hard work of everyone who fought for this important moment,” said Hall.

Fast food workers are paid less than any other occupation, and fast food work is projected to be the second largest growing occupation (PDF) in the country, with more openings than nearly any other.

This momentous victory brings fast food workers in New York significantly closer to earning a wage that will allow them to support themselves. It will boost their own financial stability, their communities, and the economy for all of us.

In New York and many other states, $15 is still a modest wage. This increase however allows workers to come closer to making ends meet.

In the report “Families Out of Balance” by the Alliance for a Just Society, our research shows that a living wage for a single adult is $18.47 an hour in New York state and is $22.49 an hour in New York City.

A pay raise is long overdue for all our workers nationwide. Tomorrow marks six years since the federal government last raised the minimum wage – to $7.25 on July 24, 2009.

A bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate Wednesday by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and in the House by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

If the wage can be raised in Seattle and New York and Los Angeles and so many other cities, it can be raised nationally – and we can do it.

Congratulations New York! The struggle continues!unnamed (4)

Working Families Need Good Jobs – Not Just Any Job

Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its January jobs report, showing that 257,000 jobs were added last month. Increasing jobs is great news, but only if those jobs allow workers and their families to make ends meet.

The numbers have been praised, especially the average hourly wages that “soared 12 cents” to $24.75. While wages did increase in January, that “soaring” was compared to a decrease in wages in December, and was only 7 cents higher than wages reported in November. Additionally, 20 states increased their minimum wage in January, which would on its own increase average hourly wages.

In the latest installment of the Job Gap Economic Prosperity Series, “Low Wage Nation,” we show that most of the country’s job growth is in low wage jobs paying less than $15 per hour. Occupations like retail sales and food service top the list of jobs with the most new openings, yet these occupations have some of the lowest wages in the country.

Such jobs do not pay enough for a single adult to make ends meet, let alone a parent with children. Additionally, women and people of color are also overrepresented in these low-wage occupations, leaving them less likely to earn enough to provide for themselves and their families.

Nearly half of all new job openings are low wage, and nationally there are seven job seekers for every job opening that pays at least $15 per hour. That means that six of those seven job seekers must either take a lower-paying job, or go without work, as there aren’t enough jobs of any wage level for all of the nation’s job seekers.

“There are still too many people out of work, and too few living wage jobs to go around. We need to invest in good paying jobs and celebrate once our workers are able to make ends meet,” said LeeAnn Hall, executive director of the Alliance.

Increasing the minimum wage does help increase workers’ wages across the board – we saw some of that in January’s job growth, and we can see more if more cities and states increase their minimum wage.

However, we also need to increase the number of jobs available that actually pay a living wage by investing in good paying jobs, like those in the health care industry. Once our workers are able to make ends meet, it will truly be cause for celebration.

Minimum Wage Shouldn’t Force Workers to Live in Poverty

On New Year’s Day, 20 states raised their minimum wages. That leaves a lot of states that aren’t increasing the minimum wage — along with the federal government.

Even some of those employees who are getting increases don’t have much to celebrate. Workers in Florida might barely notice their 12-cents-an-hour raise. And the extra 15 cents an hour in Montana, Arizona, and Missouri will be wiped out with inflation and climbing costs before the first paycheck is deposited.

U.S. legislators have refused since 2009 to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour — not even close to enough for full-time workers to make ends meet.

To put it bluntly, minimum wage is a poverty wage. Yet only 29 states have minimum wage rates higher than the federal rate — and some just barely.

In last year’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called on Congress to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

Although Congress turned a deaf ear, activists took up the challenge. “Fight for $15” movements across the country won among the most powerful progressive victories of 2014.

Cheers to cities like Seattle and San Francisco with minimum wage plans that will increase rates to $15 an hour in the next few years. Huge congratulations to voters in Oakland, California, as well in Arkansas, South Dakota, Nebraska, and others who voted for significant minimum wage increases.

But the truth is, while it’s a great start, none of these increases goes far enough, or lifts workers out of poverty fast enough. What’s needed is a living wage that allows full-time workers to cover their basic needs and have a little savings left over in case of an emergency.

The Job Gap Economic Prosperity series — a collection of research reports by theAlliance for a Just Society — shows that a living wage comes to over $15 an hour for a single adult in most states studied. A parent supporting a child needs to earn closer to $22 or $23 an hour.

Women and people of color are least likely to earn a living wage, with half or more working full-time and not making enough to make ends meet.

Poverty-level pay is taken for granted at restaurant chains like McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts, and major retailers like Wal-Mart, that would rather invest in government lobbyists to keep wages low than in their employees.

“If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it,” Obama implored Congress in his latest State of the Union address. “If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.”

The sub-minimum wage for tipped workers has been stuck at $2.13 an hour for 24 long years. Imagine going to work every day, hoping beyond hope that the tips will make up for the tiny hourly wage. No worker should be a second-class employee.

Refusing to pay employees a wage they can live on isn’t a business plan. Paying employees enough so they can shop or dine at your business or neighboring businesses and grow the local economy — now that’s smart.

A full-time job should lead to financial stability, not poverty. We must continue to push Congress to raise the federal minimum wage and abolish the separate tipped minimum wage.

In the meantime, keep up the “Fight for $15.” We know that we can motivate our mayors, city councils, and state legislators by speaking out, sharing our stories, and presenting the facts. Most importantly, we have to vote.

Let’s make 2015 the year for $15 — and really have something to celebrate next New Year.

LeeAnn Hall is the executive director of Alliance for a Just Society, a national research, policy, and organizing network striving for economic and social equity. AllianceforaJustSociety.org
Distributed via OtherWords.org

Making Ends Meet: Unaffordable Housing

Last month, we showed just how difficult it is for working parents to afford to pay for child care and cover other living expenses. One of those other major living expenses that all workers must account for is the cost of housing and utilities.

Housing is considered affordable if it costs no more than 30 percent of a family’s income. For workers earning minimum wage, though, finding housing at 30 percent or less of their income can be impossible.

The cost of housing and utilities (including basic home phone service) for a one-bedroom apartment takes more than 50 percent of a full-time worker’s income at minimum wage in 6 of the 10 states studied in the Alliance’s 2014-2015 Job Gap Economic Prosperity Series. Housing and utilities take more than 40 percent of their income in the other 4 states. In New York City, those expenses can easily top 100 percent of a single minimum wage earner’s income.

For a working parent who needs a two-bedroom apartment, the cost of rent and utilities is more than two-thirds of a single minimum wage earner’s income in 6 of the 10 states studied, and is more than half of that earner’s income in the remaining 4 states.

In the 10 states studied, annualized fair market rents (which include utilities) plus basic phone service for a one-bedroom apartment range from $6,672 in Montana to $15,192 in New York City. Annual costs for a two-bedroom apartment range from $8,504 in Montana to $17,964 in New York City. Additionally, because fair market rent is based at the 40th percentile, 60 percent of units actually cost more than that amount.

As the National Low-Income Housing Coalition notes, “A family with one full-time worker earning the minimum wage cannot afford the local fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States.” That is, there is no place in the United States where the fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment costs less than 30 percent of minimum wage earnings.

In fact, in 2012 there were only 16 available affordable units per 100 deeply low-income households who earn 15 percent or less of area median income. For these households, which include minimum wage earners, finding housing that is affordable is nearly impossible.

When rent is unaffordable, workers have few choices. Some families squeeze multiple people into a studio apartment or share a larger apartment with another family; some forego other necessities like health care or nutritious meals; and some must rely on affordable housing or other supports, if they can get in.

In our recent report, Equity in the Balance, Gaisha Velazquez, a working mom in Connecticut describes her struggle to find housing for herself and her young daughter on a low income.

“Our rent takes up almost half of our income, and we live in a pretty violent neighborhood with lower rent than some other areas,” said Velazquez. ” But it’s the best we can do right now.”

Like childcare, the high cost of housing can be an insurmountable obstacle to making ends meet for low-wage workers. Increasing wages through a higher minimum wage and investing in higher-wage industries will help more workers afford the cost of housing. Additionally, though, addressing the lack of affordable housing and overall high housing costs will help all workers be better able to make ends meet.

Over the next few months, the Alliance for a Just Society will look at some of the components that go into calculating a living wage, and show why it’s impossible to make ends meet working full-time at minimum wage.

Unaffordable Housing graph

Only 52 percent of Full-Time Workers of Color Earn Enough to Make Ends Meet

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nov. 18, 2014
Contact: Kathy Mulady, communications director
kathy@allianceforajustsociety.org

Only 52 percent of Full-Time Workers of Color Earn Enough to Make Ends Meet

Just 57 percent of women and 42 percent of Latino workers earn enough working full time to cover their basic needs

SEATTLE — During this season of abundance, many full-time workers across America don’t earn enough for a single person to survive, much less to support a family. The staggeringly low percentage of women and people of color who earn a living wage is especially troubling.

“Equity in the Balance,” a report by the Alliance for a Just Society released today, details just how few women, people of color, and non-citizens in the U.S., working full-time, make a living wage — that is, earn enough income to cover basic expenses.

Only 61 percent of all full-time workers earn a wage that allows a single adult to make ends meet. Only 57 percent of women, and just 52 percent of people of color make a living wage. Just 42 percent of Latino workers earn enough to make ends meet. Among non-citizen workers, only 38 percent earn more than $15 per hour.

“A system that unjustly and persistently leaves people of color over-represented in low-wage work is economic racism,” said LeeAnn Hall, executive director of the Alliance for a Just Society. “Policies that keep women over-represented among low-wage workers is gender discrimination.

“It’s time to increase the national minimum from a $7.25 poverty wage to $15 an hour to ensure that full-time work pays enough to do more than barely survive, and so our families and economy can thrive.”

“Equity in the Balance” is a groundbreaking report, said Dorian Warren, associate professor of political science at Columbia University.

“No one in the country is talking about economic racism – and here, in this report, are the numbers that clearly illustrate its existence and its impact,” Warren said. “When people talk about poverty, race has disappeared from the conversation. The economy and race have become uncoupled in our country.”

Policies and practices in the U.S. have perpetuated low wages in jobs and industries where women and people of color primarily work. 

“ ‘Equity in the Balance’ provides a stark national picture of what we’ve been seeing over the past decade in the restaurant industry, one of the largest private-sector employers in the nation. Women and people of color bear the brunt of the country’s growing income inequality gap,” said Saru Jayaraman, director of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United.

“Increasingly, the only jobs available to all people are low-wage jobs,” Jayaraman said. “The difference for women and people of color is that they are never able to move out of these jobs and into positions that will allow them to support their families.”

Women of color struggle even more, and are forced to make difficult choices to provide for their children.

“For the first time in history in the U.S., women make up half of the paid labor force.  Many of them are moms who are either the sole breadwinner or the primary breadwinner for their families,” said Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, executive director of MomsRising.

“Women’s incomes are essential to family economic security – and that economic security is critical to our nation’s overall economic health. That’s our modern reality,” said Rowe-Finkbeiner.

“Equity in the Balance” is the second report in the 2014 Job Gap Economic Prosperity Series. Alliance for a Just Society has produced Job Gap studies on jobs and wages since 1999.

Data from the Alliance’s Job Gap Study figure prominently in debates on minimum wage, paid sick days, payday lending, Medicaid and other family economic issues.

Here is a summary of the recommendations in the report:

 

  • Increase the federal minimum wage. Wages should provide enough for workers to more than make ends meet. A $15 national minimum wage would approach  a living wage covers basic expenses and sets aside some savings for emergencies.
  • Eliminate the federal tipped minimum wage that has been stagnant at $2.13 per hour for over 20 years. That is not a formula for economic prosperity.
  • Invest in state and federal safety net programs, such as childcare assistance. Until there are enough living wage jobs to go around for all household types, families will continue to face tough choices.
  • Guarantee paid leave that includes maternity leave and parental leave to care for sick children. Many workers risk losing their jobs or income, if they are too sick to come to work or if they need to care for a sick child.
  • Unionize occupations and industries that pay the lowest wages, including fast food, home care and farm work to help women and people of color earn increased wages and benefits.
  • Prohibit pay secrecy and encourage transparency. When employers either formally or informally discourage or even forbid employees from sharing wage information, it leaves employees unaware that they are being underpaid.
  • Expand and Strengthen Social Security: Because women and people of color earn less, they are less able to save for retirement and forced to depend solely on Social Security.
 Alliance for a Just Society is a national policy, research and organizing network with 14 state affiliates, that focuses on health, racial and economic justice.
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Living Wage: A New Battle in the War on Poverty

Fifty years after President Lyndon Johnson announced a War on Poverty in America, more than 46.5 million people in our country, national-report-cover-artabout one out of every seven, still struggle to get enough to eat or have a place to live. The U.S. Census Bureau shows that for people of color, the poverty rate is even higher, with one out of every four people who are black or Latino living in poverty.

Programs like Medicare and Medicaid that were created to fight the War on Poverty have helped millions of people. Strengthening both of those programs continues to be a critical part of protecting families. But the battle plan for keeping families safe and secure also has to include another key element: a significantly higher minimum wage – an actual living wage. Continue reading “Living Wage: A New Battle in the War on Poverty”

2012 Job Gap Report

2012-Job-Gap-Report_National_FINAL-1“Broken Bootstraps: Falling Behind on Full-Time Work,” is the 14th annual installment of a joint study by Alliance for a Just Society and its affiliates in 7 states.

 

Unemployment rates in all states are still high. A modest $9.00/hr. minimum wage has been mentioned at the federal level. Even that income would leave most low-wage workers needing to utilize public assistance programs. Continue reading “2012 Job Gap Report”

Living wage jobs are scarce in Northwest and Colorado

The recently released 2010 Northwest Job Gap Study, Searching for Work that Pays looks at living wages in each county in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. The study also compares the number of job openings paying a living wage to the number of job seekers in each state. The key findings are disturbing: 48% of job openings pay less than the living wage needed for a single adult. For working families, the situation is even worse: 81% of job openings pay less than the living wage needed for a family with two adults (one working) with two children.

These numbers are even more devastating when compared to the record profits that U.S. corporations are making. While millions are desperately trying to make ends meet, annual corporate profits hit an all-time high of $1.66 trillion according to a recent report from the Commerce Department.

The appalling disparities between people and corporations are brought to light by findings in this annual Job Gap study. The report calculates a living wage for a variety of family sizes, and then measures how many job openings pay that wage. Living wages are calculated for all counties in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.

A living wage allows a family to meet its basic needs without public assistance and provides some ability to save money for emergencies and to plan ahead.

The report finds that in the Northwest and Colorado, the living wage ranges from $13.54 an hour ($28,171 a year) for a single adult in Montana to $29.95 an hour ($62,288 a year) for a single adult with two children in Colorado.

The report also finds serious shortfalls between the number of people seeking work and the availability of jobs that pay a living wage. This is known as the “job gap.”

The job gap ranges from 7 job seekers per living wage job opening for a single adult in Washington to 57 job seekers per living wage job opening for a family of four in Montana. The lack of living wage jobs forces families to make impossible decisions, juggling scarce dollars between buying milk for the baby or gas for the car.

For many in the Northwest and Colorado, public investments in families and communities are more important than ever. Yet supports like unemployment insurance, child care, and basic health are threatened by the public revenue crisis, while corporate profits continue to escalate.

Searching for Work that Pays: 2010 Job Gap Study

The 2010 Job Gap Study looks at the availability of living wage jobs in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. This report provides calculations of:

  • A living wage for all counties in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington;
  • The percent of job openings that pay a living wage in each of these states; and
  • The ratio of the number of living wage job openings to the number of people looking for work.

Click here to download the full report. Continue reading “Searching for Work that Pays: 2010 Job Gap Study”