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Future jobs won’t support decent living
By Zachary Roth
It's most welcome
news that job growth seems to be picking up
again--even if we'll need a whole lot more of it
to get back to where we were before the Great
Still, as we've
reported, there's growing evidence that the new
jobs, many of which are in sectors like retail,
food services, and health care, simply aren't as
good--in terms of wages, hours, and
seniority--as the ones they're replacing. And a
report released today only adds to the concern.
commissioned by the nonprofit group Wider
Opportunities for Women, looks at how much
income it takes to support a basic standard of
living for an American family--and finds that
many of the jobs of the future won't pay enough
to provide that.
To calculate this
"economic security" income, the study's authors
certainly didn't assume a lavish lifestyle. They
considered basic needs--housing, food,
utilities, health care, child-care, and
transportation--plus the cost of modest saving
for retirement and a small surplus for
emergencies. (At at a time when economic
"shocks" are increasingly common, that's an
essential part of financial security.) They
don't factor in some things many of us take for
granted, like entertainment or eating out.
The result? To
achieve economic security, a single parent with
two children needs an income of just over
$30,000 a year--nearly twice the federal minimum
wage--while a two-income household needs almost
The study then
finds that, according to Labor Department
projections, fewer than 13 percent of jobs to be
created by 2018 will meet the economic security
threshold for a single parent with two kids.
Forty-three percent of those jobs will meet the
threshold for a two-income household.
In other words,
most of the jobs of the future aren't likely to
pay enough to offer the kind of stable,
middle-class existence that for much of the 20th
century was seen as the American birthright.
"The American Dream of working hard to support
your family is being re-written by the growth of
low-paying industries and rising expenses," said
Joan Kuriansky, WOW's executive director.
Indeed, this seems to be the new reality of the
American economic landscape. Gary Burtless, an
economist with the Brookings Institution, noted
in a statement on the government's jobs numbers
that real earnings fell 1.1 percent between
October and February--a development he
attributed to the still-high unemployment rate,
which is eroding workers' bargaining power.
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