Future jobs won’t support decent living standard: Report

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 Recession.

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.

The study, 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 $68,000.

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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