Patchwork of Paychecks: A Shortage Of Full-Time Living Wage Jobs Leaves Workers Scrambling To Make Ends Meet

Source: Allyson Fredericksen, Alliance for a Just Society, Economic Prosperity series, December 2015

From the summary:
….In every state and in Washington, D.C., the number of people looking for work exceeds the number of living wage jobs. In Alaska, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming, there are three job seekers for each job opening that pays 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. The ratio is even greater for job openings that pay enough for families with children to make ends meet.

Occupational projections show that this is a trend unlikely to change in the near future. Nationally, four of the top five fastest growing occupations – those occupations with the most job openings – pay less than $15 per hour. This finding suggests that our economy is not growing in a way that is delivering returns to workers.

Additionally, the projected openings in the top five occupations for job seekers are less likely to be full-time. In all five of these leading occupations, including the relatively well-paid occupation category of Registered Nurses, workers are more likely to work part-time than are workers overall. In three of these leading occupations, workers are more likely to work part-time than full-time. Job-seekers face not only inadequate wages but also inadequate hours, making it even more difficult for them to make ends meet.

For part-time workers, a job that pays an hourly wage equal to the living wage would still not provide enough to make ends meet. If they are paid less than a living wage, it will take even more hours per week just to make ends meet. Furthermore, because part-time workers are less likely to receive benefits such as employer-sponsored health insurance and may commute between multiple jobs, their actual cost of living could be even greater than those with full-time jobs.

Tools exist to help ensure that all workers can make ends meet. They include increasing the federal minimum wage to at least $15 per hour; ensuring that state and federal subsidies go to businesses that produce full-time living wage jobs; strengthening the safety net; improving regulation of scheduling practices; and supporting workers’ ability to organize and collectively bargain for higher wages, full-time work, and benefits.

Such measures are needed to ensure that workers are properly compensated for their participation in the economy, while preserving their ability to lead lives outside work. These protections will contribute not only to workers’ economic security, but also to the well-being of their families and communities……