WASHINGTON – Half of all new jobs nationwide don’t pay enough for a full-time worker to live on – much less a single parent with a child. And there are long lines of job-seekers for the few jobs that do pay a living wage.
“Low Wage Nation,” released today, is the newest report in the Job Gap Economic Prosperity Series produced by the Alliance for a Just Society. The report paints a sobering picture of just how hard it is to find a living wage job.
“This new report clearly illustrates the low-wage crisis in our country,” said LeeAnn Hall, executive director of Alliance for a Just Society. “A full-time job should lead to financial stability, not to poverty.”
The top four occupations with the greatest number of projected job openings are in retail and food service. Those jobs pay between $8.81 and $10.16 an hour.
The Alliance was joined by executive directors from Good Jobs First and Washington Community Action Network for a live webinar today to discuss the findings of the report. A recorded version of the webinar is available here.
“The reality is that we are living in a low wage nation, a country of workers putting in long hours, but still failing to make ends meet. And this report is the evidence,” said Ben Henry, senior policy associate and one of the report authors.
Some of the report findings:
- Nationwide, 48 percent of job openings pay less than $15 an hour. (That percent ranges from 35 percent in Massachusetts to 61 percent in South Dakota.)
- Nationally, there are seven times more job seekers than jobs that pay enough for a worker to make ends meet.
- Two of the top five occupations with the most projected job openings are also in the top five in lowest pay.
What Is a Living Wage?
A living wage is one that pays high enough for a full-time worker to cover basic living needs for herself and her family, without having to rely on public assistance to get by.
“A living wage is not a poverty wage, and it is not simply ‘scraping by.’ A living wage provides a modest living, with a little left to set aside for emergencies,” said Allyson Fredericksen, policy associate and co-author of the Alliance report.
It’s a Jobs Crisis, Not a Worker Crisis
“This is about workers who show up every day and put in a full day so that their employer can make a profit,” said Jill Reese, associate director of the Alliance. “These workers should not be living in poverty, they should be able to afford – at the very least – to cover their basic needs.”
Recommendations from the “Low Wage Nation” Report
- Increase minimum wage to a living wage
- Eliminate the tipped minimum wage (stuck at $2.13 an hour for 24 years)
- Establish work supports, like paid sick days and paid maternity leave.
- Strengthen federal and state safety net programs
- Increase federal and state revenue
- Invest in good paying jobs, like those in the health care industry
“Jobs that once were good family-wage jobs are becoming poverty-wage jobs, and economic development programs are too often indifferent,” said Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First. “States giving out tax breaks usually fail to even disclose actual jobs created or actual wages paid.
“Low Wage Nation reveals the tremendous cost of those policies to our workers and their families,” said LeRoy.
The full report is available at thejobgap.org
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Alliance for a Just Society is a national policy, research and organizing network with 15 state affiliates that focuses on health, racial and economic justice. The Alliance has produced Job Gap studies since 1999.