“Patchwork of Paychecks” Not Enough Jobs to Go Around

For Immediate Release
Dec. 8, 2015
Contact: Kathy Mulady
Communications director
(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:


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.

# # #

Collective Bargaining is a Valuable Tool for Workers to Make Ends Meet

Working full-time should allow workers to make ends meet; instead, many workers across the country continue to be paid wages that leave them living paycheck-to-paycheck. As we’ve shown in our Job Gap Economic Prosperity Series since 1999, a living wage is well above the minimum wage that too many workers are paid.

Our recent report, “Low Wage Nation,” shows that nearly half of new jobs are low-wage jobs. In October, we will release a new installment showing that a living wage across the country is well above the federal minimum wage, and above state minimum wages.

But, the question remains, what needs to be done so that workers are paid a living wage?

One policy recommendation is to increase the minimum wage nationwide, lifting the wage floor for all workers. Another recommendation is to strengthen unions and support collective bargaining efforts by workers, especially in occupations that have not traditionally been unionized or have seen resistance from employers, such as fast food and retail.

The Alliance for a Just Society believes that all jobs should be good jobs, and unions are strong tools for making that a reality.

Union members earn higher wages than non-union members, and the gender wage gap is less for unionized workplaces than it is for those that are not unionized. In addition, though, unions put upward pressure on wages for all workers – even those whose workplaces are not unionized.

Furthermore, collective bargaining can also help lower the cost of living, making it easier for working families to make ends meet. Union efforts have helped workers gain access to affordable health insurance and retirement funds, including pensions.

Benefits like paid sick leave and paid family leave make sure that workers are paid while they care for their own health and when they care for their families.

As worker-led organizing like the Fight for 15 and Our Walmart have shown, workers in fast food and retail face harsh opposition to higher wages, workplace protections, access to health insurance, fair scheduling, and more. It is no surprise that workers in the Fight for 15 movement trying to make ends meet now ask not only for a $15 wage – but for $15 and a union.

Building Momentum to “Ban the Box” Nationwide

Last week, Oregon’s Gov. Kate Brown signed into law a bill that prohibits questions about prior convictions on initial applications for employment.

This makes Oregon the seventh state in the country to “ban the box” on private employment applications, giving people with records the chance to get to an interview and a fairer shot at employment opportunities. The measure will go into effect in Oregon on January 1, 2016.

Alliance affiliates Oregon Action and Center for Intercultural Organizing were partners in the Fair Shot for All coalition that pushed the “ban the box” proposal forward. The Main Street Alliance of Oregon and its small business leaders also brought their voices to the debate in support of the measure.

The momentum for fair hiring laws is continuing to build: over 100 cities and counties around the country have now passed “ban the box” measures for public or private employment. The issue has appeal across political lines and has brought together coalitions that include civil rights groups, faith communities, labor allies, prison reform groups, and small business leaders.

In addition to this latest win in Oregon, Alliance affiliates from Citizen Action of New York to Virginia Organizing to Main Street Alliance of Florida have been organizing to advance fair hiring policies at the local, state, and national levels.

In Virginia, working with several other groups, Virginia Organizing was the driving force in winning measures to ban the box in 10 local jurisdictions over the past year. They then encouraged Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to issue an executive order banning the box for state jobs; when he did, it made Virginia one of 18 states that have banned the box for public sector jobs.

Virginia Organizing has also weighed in on this issue at the federal level, successfully asking senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine to call on President Barack Obama to issue an executive order banning the criminal history question on federal job applications.

Main Street Alliance of Florida got involved in fair hiring issues earlier this year after business owner members shared stories of their past experiences facing employment discrimination based on a conviction history.

In Daytona Beach, Main Street Alliance members testified before the city commission and met with the mayor and city manager, making a small business and local economy-focused case for fair hiring practices alongside arguments about basic fairness and opportunity. The fair chance hiring initiative, including banning the conviction box on job application forms, passed the Daytona Beach City Commission in early June.

Main Street Alliance and coalition partners in Florida then set their sights on Orlando, co-authoring a letter to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer stating their intent to advance a fair hiring campaign there. Within days, the City of Orlando announced plans to implement a “ban the box” policy by the end of July.

In addition to the boots-on-the-ground work that wins policy change at the local level, Main Street Alliance leaders have used the megaphone of national media to bring a new perspective to the debate about fair hiring and push back on unfounded claims that “banning the box” is bad for business. Main Street Alliance of Florida member Paul Heroux makes the pro-small business, pro-local economy case for fair hiring in this op-ed in The Guardian.

And Main Street Alliance leaders have also joined in the national effort to urge the Obama Administration to ban the box on federal hiring applications.

These ban the box wins from Oregon to Virginia to Florida highlight the power of unusual allies – like job applicants, small business owners, faith allies, and prison reformers – joining together to push for changes that restore economic opportunity, advance racial equity, and build stronger local economies.

That joining together and the power it builds don’t magically appear out of thin air. They take organizing – dedicated, determined, don’t-take-no-for-an-answer organizing. That’s what Alliance affiliates are about.

More Low Paying Jobs Means Families Continue to Struggle

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released the Employment Situation Summary, commonly known as the “jobs report,” for May. While many news outlets had headlines lauding May’s jobs numbers, at least some are beginning to come around to a fact that we have been stating for months: too many of these new jobs are in low-wage work.

Rather than being good jobs that pay enough to meet basic needs, these jobs leave working families without the ability to make ends meet.

Nonfarm payroll, which includes all industries that are not farm-related, increased by 280,000 in May. Most of that increase comes from service-providing industries like retail. Unfortunately, a significant portion of these jobs are in traditionally low-paying industries, with three of the top four increases in service-providing industries that have average hourly earnings below $15 per hour.

This includes industries we’ve called out before like leisure and hospitality (which includes food service) and retail, as well as professional and business services. Additionally, within professional and business services, a large portion of the growth came from temporary help services – jobs that do not ensure stable employment.

The May Jobs Report showed a continuation of a trend away from high-paying jobs and toward low-paying and even temporary employment. As we reported in “Low Wage Nation,” there are not enough good-paying jobs to go around, and growth in low-wage industries only exacerbates the problem.

With seven job seekers for every job opening that pays at least $15 per hour, too many working families will continue to struggle, even with May’s job growth.

However, there is some hopeful news in the May Jobs Report, as well. The industry with the highest increase in employment was Education and Health Services, with most of that increase coming from Health Care and Social Assistance.

As mentioned in “Low Wage Nation,” occupations in this industry pay relatively high wages, and are a great investment for states as they create good jobs and help working families care for their own health, as well. While the BLS data does not specify where this job growth originated, it is likely that at least some of it is due to continued implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the growing number of states that have expanded Medicaid.

Moving forward, we hope that this strong increase in health care jobs continues. However, investment in even more high-paying industries also needs to be a priority, as does increasing wages across the board so that all jobs can become good jobs. Until then, as long as employment growth continues to happen largely in lower-paying industries, working families will struggle to make ends meet without enough high-paying jobs to go around.




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.

Graduates Struggle Under a Mountain of Debt

College is supposed to be the pathway to a better job and a better life, but for students across the country college is also the pathway to a life of debt.

Since 2008, states across the country have decreased their investment in higher education, with every state except for Alaska and North Dakota providing less per student in 2014 than in 2008. These cuts have led colleges and universities to increase tuition to make up for the lost funding, shifting that burden onto students and their families.

“A Mountain of Debt,” released this week in Washington and Connecticut, show clearly that when students face increased tuition and low wages, many must turn to student loans to cover costs. In fact, nationwide 70 percent of students graduate with student loans. The average amount of debt at graduation is $29,000.

Students in states like Washington and Connecticut find themselves unable to get by without loans for college, and unable to easily pay them off after graduation.

“I was working 80 hours a week to pay for school and living expenses. My average day would include working multiple fast food jobs sporadically thrown between classes, working one job until 8:30 at night, working 10 p.m. until 4 a.m. loading trucks in a factory, then getting up for class at 8 a.m. and doing it all over again,” said Alex Katz, a student at the University of Connecticut.

Christina Hoadley, a student at Central Connecticut State University, works two jobs to help pay for college, but still is worried about the prospect of paying off her loans. “After grad school, I anticipate walking away with a loan amount to the tune of $40,000. I’ll have to begin paying on all that within 6 to 8 months after completing school. It’s a lot of stress knowing the huge weight of debt that lies ahead.”

In Washington, Roxana Pardo Garcia loves the work that she has found since graduation, but she does not earn enough to make paying off her student loans easy. “My current student loan debt load is $19,000, and my loan payments take about 20 percent of my monthly take-home pay. I just wish I could help my mom out more. After all, she is the reason I went to school: to lift us out of the cycle of poverty.”

Bernadette Binalangbang of Tukwila, Washington has had to take a job outside of her field just so she can work to pay off her student loans. “I really love to bake and making pastries is my passion, [but] I’m currently employed full-time at a medical lab. It’s a complete shift from what I’d like to be doing, but it pays my bills and keeps me afloat — just barely. My student debt payments take up more than 30 percent of my monthly income.”

Disinvestment by states has left students and graduates like Alex, Christina, Roxana, and Bernadette in an uphill battle against the mountain of debt they’ve accumulated. States like Washington and Connecticut need to reinvest in higher education, or even more students will find themselves with no choice but to take out loans that they will repay for years to come.

Fair Wages Aren’t Enough, Workers Need Hours, Predictability, too

Fast-Food-EmployeesThere’s no question that working families across the country are struggling to get by; wages for most income levels have been stagnant or declining over the past decade, while the cost of living has continued to increase.

One key to helping working families is increasing wages so that there are more living wage jobs available. However, increasing the minimum wage is only part of the solution for helping families whose low-wage jobs do not always include steady work.

Living wage calculations, like those produced by the Alliance for a Just Society, must make assumptions to remain consistent year after year. One of those assumptions is that workers have jobs where they can actually work 40 hours per week, year-round (for 2,080 hours per year). For many workers, this assumption doesn’t match their reality.

For retail and restaurant workers, a steady schedule with enough hours can be hard to come by. Retail salespersons and food preparation and service workers are two of the top five occupations with the greatest projected job growth between 2012 and 2022, but are also low-wage occupations, with 2013 median annual wage of $21,140 and $18,330, respectively. These jobs are also often shift work, without set schedules. Continue reading “Fair Wages Aren’t Enough, Workers Need Hours, Predictability, too”

Everyone Benefits When Workers Earn Living Wages

The South Korea government is taking an interesting approach to stagnating wages. The South Korean Ministry of Strategy and Finance is pushing a policy to offer tax credits to those firms that increase worker pay.

This legislation — which, if approved by the South Korean parliament, would go into effect in January — creates a policy incentive for firms to increase wages. As in America, wage growth in South Korea is “not keeping pace with corporate profits in South Korea, where household debt is rising while companies hoard cash,” according to this Bloomberg story.

Legislators Who Block Medicaid Expansion Are Stiffing Veterans Out of Health Care

** This article by LeeAnn Hall  first appeared in Huffington Post **

r-VETERANS croppedThe scandal over long wait times for veterans in the Department of Veterans Affairs health system has grabbed a lot of headlines and elicited a lot of righteous anger – as it should. America’s veterans deserve so much better.

But as Ezra Klein pointed out in a piece in Vox, there’s another health care scandal that also deserves its share of righteous anger, and it also has a big impact on veterans with health care needs: the self-destructive refusal of lawmakers in 20-plus states to accept federal funds to expand their Medicaid programs.

Klein catalogued “24 health-care scandals that critics of the VA should also be furious about” (that is, the 24 states that have rejected the Medicaid expansion). Thanks to lawmakers’ kneejerk opposition to expanding health coverage in those states, there are huge numbers of uninsured veterans who should be eligible for coverage, but aren’t: 41,200 veterans in Florida, 24,900 in Georgia, 48,900 in Texas… and the list goes on.

All in all, about 250,000 uninsured veterans are getting stiffed out of eligibility for health coverage by lawmakers who have blocked Medicaid expansion, according to Pew’s Stateline. As it turns out, those lawmakers are also stiffing their own states out of economy-boosting jobs – health care jobs that are overwhelmingly good-paying jobs. Medicaid expansion would create thousands more of these jobs.

Continue reading “Legislators Who Block Medicaid Expansion Are Stiffing Veterans Out of Health Care”

Will Health Coverage Translate into Receiving Health Care?

LAH Orange 2019735258LeeAnn Hall, executive director of Alliance for a Just Society, published this article originally in Huffington Post.

More than 7.5 million people have signed up for new health coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s state and federal health insurance marketplaces at the close of the first enrollment period.

The Department of Health and Human Services reports that another 3 million people have gained health coverage through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) as of the end of February, compared to figures five months earlier.

Now we’re about to find out something critically important: whether having health coverage translates into receiving health care.

Let’s be blunt: one of the biggest problems with America’s health care system is that it neglects the poorest among us. People of color suffer more and die earlier than others. The U.S. continues to have one of the highest infant mortality rates among the 14 wealthiest countries, and it’s higher in communities of color. Continue reading “Will Health Coverage Translate into Receiving Health Care?”