Low-Wage Industries Drive Jobs Recovery, Exacerbating Wealth Gap
Connecticut may be adding jobs each month as it still charts a slow recovery from the great recession. But according to a new report, many of those jobs won’t sustain a family.
Connecticut Voices for Children takes a look each year at the state of working Connecticut.
Close to seven years after the financial crisis, the latest survey says that things are pretty good in the state if you’re white and college-educated. But if you’re Black or Hispanic with a lower education level, you’re three times as likely to suffer unemployment.
And while it’s true the state is adding jobs fairly steadily now, there’s a problem.
"Since the great recession, we’ve mostly gained jobs in low wage industries," said Ray Noonan, associate policy fellow at Connecticut Voices for Children. "The retail, the restaurant businesses; in fact almost half of our growth has been in these low wage industries that pay, on average, less than $15.00 an hour, which just simply isn’t enough to raise a family in Connecticut."
Workers of color are far more likely to work in low-wage industries, so racial and ethnic wage gaps have widened. The median hourly wage for minority workers in the state now stands between $7.25 and $8.00 lower than whites.
"It’s not just that many of these jobs don’t pay very much. It’s that they also don’t have the benefits; they don’t have the flexibility; they don’t have the predictability of jobs past," said Noonan. "And what that means is that families today working in those jobs and raising children are going to have a harder time making ends meet to provide a stable environment for their children."
The report includes a wish list for legislators in the state.
It wants to see the General Assembly restore the Earned Income Tax Credit to its 2011 levels, and raise the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour.
It’s also calling for an expansion of quality early childhood education to begin to address the achievement gap for those living in poverty.
Ellen Shemitz, executive director of Connecticut Voices for Children, said another austerity budget like the one we saw last spring won’t address the state’s problems.
"We are not going to be able to simply cinch our belts out of this issue," she said. "We can’t simply keep trying to cut back and hope that the economy is going to turn around. There need to be affirmative investments, investments in our infrastructure, investments in education, investments in ensuring that the kind of businesses that are growing are businesses that support living wages, that support strong families."
Shemitz believes there is an understanding of this among legislators, but a vocal appetite for change may not emerge until after the election.