Low-Paying Jobs Are Here To Stay

low paying jobs

By Tami Luhby


NEW YORK -- Stuck in a job with lousy pay? Better get used to it.

Some 28 percent of workers are expected to hold low-wage jobs in 2020, roughly the same percentage as in 2010, according to a study by the Economic Policy Institute. The study defines low-paying jobs as those with wages at or below what full-time workers must earn to live above the poverty level for a family of four. In 2011, this was $23,005, or $11.06 an hour.

The economy won't support much growth in jobs with higher salaries, said Rebecca Thiess, policy analyst at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, who crunched government data to come up with these projections.

"Far too many economic pundits take for granted that the economy of the future will demand far greater skills and credentials," she wrote in a recent paper.

While all eyes are on Friday's monthly jobs report to find out how many positions were added in July, a growing number of economists are concerned with the quality of the jobs being created.

More: 9 Well-Paying Jobs That Don't Require A Degree


Lower wage occupations grew by 3.2 percent over the year ending in the first quarter of 2011, according to the National Employment Law Project. This was fueled mainly by the expansion of retail salespeople, office clerks, cashiers, food prep workers and store clerks, whose median hourly wages ranged from $7.51 to $13.52.

Four of the five occupations with the highest concentration of low-salary jobs are set to grow by 2020. These include farming, personal care, building and grounds maintenance and health care support. All have at least 45 percent of their employees earning at or below so-called poverty wages.

Only food preparation jobs, which have the greatest share of low-wage workers at nearly 74 percent, are expected to shrink a bit.

And lousy paying jobs are getting even lousier, as their pay has fallen. Workers at this end of the pay scale actually found their wages shrank in recent years, according to NELP. Between early 2008 and early 2011, low-wage workers' median pay contracted by 2.3 percent, more than double the rate of mid-wage employees.

Meanwhile, higher-wage workers enjoyed a small increase in pay.

More: 7 Part-Time Jobs That Pay Up To $40 An Hour


Mid-wage jobs, which were hit especially hard during the recession, expanded by only 1.2 percent. Higher-salary occupations declined by 1.2 percent.

The predominance of low-wage jobs is not good for either workers or the economy, said John Schmitt, a senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. These jobs often lack pension benefits and health insurance, as well as sick days and vacation time. There is also little path for advancement.

If workers are making low wages, they can't afford to shop and prop up the American economy, he said. Around two-thirds of the economy is consumer spending.

Also, since low-wage workers are better educated now than they have been in the past, college may increasingly seem like a questionable expense.

"They will start asking whether college is worth it," Schmitt said.


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steve_barnes33

I don't know about anyone else that has a family but, I can tell you that as a family of three, we could not live on $23,005 yearly. I know there are plenty of people that make $8-$12 per hour and don't work 40 hour work weeks. I have also experienced myself as a manager that there are people that don't want to work full time. It maybe a small percentage of the workforce but it is out there.

I have seen good people that have made a good livable wage; ($40-$65k) lose their jobs, families and homes because of the economy. Don't know really who to blame, who's at fault our how to get out of this but something needs to change. I'm seeing first hand children in my community becoming more stressed and scared. Some are to young to understand would it going on and can't explain what is making them hurt but I see it!

I don't care if you're a Democrat or Republican!! Just stop acting like grown ass spoiled babies. Take the thumb out of your mouths and start talking. Yes, I know they are always wanting to LOOK GOOD for their political base. But while each is seems to be more worried about their job then ours, I would really like to see them get together, bring in people from the middle and lower income brackets. Have meetings with Small and Midsize businesses, Get input from local communities as a whole and start making some decisions here.

I love when I hear someone from the Democrat party say, "We need to invest in our future." This always means more taxes, less benefits to the middle class person. If you are a family of four grossing $60k/yearly you are considered middle class. May sound like alot to those not earning this, I understand. But it isn't. I have watched as more money has left my family to pay for all government levels. Cost rise but my family struggles more and more.

I love when Republicans say, "We will not raise taxes on the top 2% wage earners." Why not? You want me to pay a higher percentage of my earned income to cover those that actually need financial help from the government yet those making more can pay less percentage wise?!

I earn $50k. I pay 23%Fed tax rate.
You earn $90, have a portfolio of $200k. You pay 18% Fed tax rate.

How you ask? Mortgage deductions, retirement, many ways. Most people that we see as being wealthy do not earn all of their money. They invest, tax deductions, etc. It's all legal. Not knocking it. Just tired of hearing how it will hurt them so much.

Wage earner is a misused word. There are people that earn a wage of $100.000 but receive options worth thousands of dollars that are not taxable. Why? Do you know that this is standard for higher position jobs. If you have a portfolio and it brings in a profit, why not be taxed? Yes, you can re-invest and keep it tied up so as to not actually take that money and spend it. But it is still money.

I'm not looking to be Europe but I am not looking to maintain what we currently have going on either.

Frustrated Citizen

December 20 2012 at 2:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
wdcarterjr

According to todays job report, fewer people have to worry about low paying jobs.

August 03 2012 at 12:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
threedawgknights

If Republicans get their way, evrything will be a low paying job! ever wonder why all GOP vote in Congress never to raise minimum wage?

August 03 2012 at 3:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
alancranford

Work is supply and demand. No one "owes" you a job or any salary. If you get a good education, work hard, relocate if necessary, keep looking for opportunities and perform well you will do just fine. On the other hand if you are content to work in a low paying job you have no one to blame but yourself! This is a "you" problem. Don't look for a handout or for someone else to take care of you! That's one of the major problems with America today in that very few are willing to accept responsibility and take charge of their future. Oh well, more for me I guess!

August 03 2012 at 12:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
timant2007

11.23 is low-paying? Damn, I need a raise.

August 03 2012 at 12:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
maletred

So, where are all those 1%ers who are "job creators?" Surely the millions in tax breaks should have spurred the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs by now? No.... I guess those "job creators" only create jobs overseas and for off shore bankers.

August 02 2012 at 11:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dodie1990

The real truth is with the death of unions and high unemployment minimum wage, part time jobs are all there will be. It is a sad situation and will not change in the near future. As long as we have unrestricted immigration and anti-union, anti-employee employers there is no incentive to change. Only if there is a shortage of employees(very unlikely) will the situation improve.

August 02 2012 at 9:24 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
xthud

Low wage jobs are meant for work experience, not careers. They are a necessary step. If pay increases... the simple solution is to hire less people. So while this makes it out be such a bad idea to have low paying jobs exist... its not. Also, a paying job is always better than no job at all. That's the facts. Take it or leave it.

August 02 2012 at 9:12 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
James Coveney

The sad part is that people are not going to be able to save enough for retirement. It is going to be very hard with today's wages and if you have children and your parents to take care of you are in serious trouble .. could be the start of a third world country for those in their 40's and up and alot will only have S.S to live on.

August 02 2012 at 6:17 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to James Coveney's comment
alancranford

I agree if they don't take steps to ensure their financial future. It will take a millon in liquid investments to generate $30,000 - $40,000 in income. Think about that. Decide how much you spend, back out the $20-$25K social security will provide and then divide by .04. That is about the number most finanical planners think you will need. I've worked hard for 32 years and have enough ($4 million range) to cover my living costs and am, therefore, semi-retired in my mid 50s. the problem isn't the economy or jobs but the lack of planning of way too many in my generation. If you are in your 40s or 50s and don't already have at least $1 million in the bank you will likely be looking at poverty in your old age - sorry but that's the truth.

August 03 2012 at 12:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
wdcarterjr

This has inspired me. I am going to get my GED and go to doctor school.

August 02 2012 at 6:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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