Around 23% of Americans wanting work but can’t find it. Available jobs are bad ones – temp or part-time low pay/poor or no benefits with no futures. “Good” jobs were offshored to low-wage less-regulated countries. The situation is getting worse, not better. Labor force participation is the lowest in 40 years. Many displaced workers remain unemployed long-term. Others finding work take huge wage cuts.
“Stagnant wages have become a fact of life for nearly all of America’s workers, but workers in lower-paying occupations are finding it especially tough to keep up with the rising cost of living,” National Employment Law Project (NELP) executive director Christine Owens explained. “Not only are their paychecks not growing, but their purchasing power has shrunk considerably, and to a far greater extent than that of higher-wage earners.”
NELP examined median hourly wage changes from 2009 – 2014 for 785 occupations – categorized into five groups with equal weighting. It found 4% wage declines on average – low and “mid-wage” occupations hardest hit, up to 5.7%. Declines were greatest in restaurant sector jobs. Food preparation workers saw 7.7% lower incomes. For cooks, it was 8.9%. Janitors, cleaners, personal care aides, home health workers, maids and housekeepers were hard hit. Many job categories expected to see strong growth in number of workers are experiencing above-average real wage declines.
“Five of the ten occupations projected to add the greatest number of jobs between 2012 and 2022 were at the bottom of the occupational distribution in 2014, with real median wages between $8.84 and $10.97,” NELP reported. “Six of the ten highest-growth occupations saw real wage declines of 5.0 percent or more between 2009 and 2014.”
At the same time, lowest paid workers earning poverty and sub-poverty wages saw wage declines of 1.6%. How much lower is the bottom of the barrel than already?
Minimum wage workers don’t earn enough to live on – why homelessness and hunger affect millions of Americans. Around 3.5 million men, women and children have no place to live. They sleep in parks, under bridges, in shelters, cars or on city streets. Nearly one-fourth are military veterans. Many others are children, victims of domestic violence or mental illness sufferers – federal, state and local governments doing little or nothing to help them. Homelessness is mainly an economic problem – caused by unemployment, underemployment and inadequate resources to live on.
America’s safety net is disappearing altogether. Hunger affects one in six Americans. Over 14 million children rely on food banks to eat.
Food insecurity exists in every US county nationwide – at its highest level at any time since the Great Depression. Hunger is a daily reality for around 50 million Americans – affecting 13 million households, including working ones. Census data show poverty or borderline conditions affect around half the population. Food stamps provide a woefully inadequate $1.40 per person per meal. Food banks supplement recipients when monthly benefits run out. Most often it’s around 10 days or more before month’s end. Official numbers understate reality. Growing millions suffer out of sight and mind. America’s wealth disparity is unprecedented. Income inequality is greater than in all other developed countries. Over three-fourths of workers live from paycheck to paycheck – one missed one away from homelessness, hunger and despair.
Government is dismissive at all levels. Monied interests alone are served. The only solution is revolutionary change.
Happy Labor Day Weekend