The Low-Wage Workforce Has Been Left Behind In the Economic Recovery

Published on November 18th, 2019

President Trump has spent the last few months touting the United States’ economic recovery, and there is cause to celebrate. Manufacturing and consumer spending are up, and the country is experiencing a low unemployment rate of 3.7%, with 156,562,000 Americans employed in October of 2019. 

However, a new report from the Brookings Institution shows more progress is needed to ensure that wages rise for families and that Americans have access to well-paying jobs. According to the report, a substantial portion of our workforce is comprised of low-wage workers. In fact, 53 million people, or 44% of all workers ages 18 to 64, in the United States, earn low hourly wages.

Yes, our economy has grown in the past two decades, but thanks to mass immigration, an endless supply of cheap labor has helped keep wages artificially low. As CAPS recently pointed out, inflation-adjusted, median household incomes have remained virtually flat for the past 20 years.In roughly the same period, the total foreign-born population living in the United States has grown by over 70 percent, rising from 25.3 million to 43.4 million in 2017. 

The Brookings Report explains which Americans disproportionately fall into the low-wage workforce category:

They are concentrated in a relatively small number of occupations, and many face economic hardship and difficult roads to higher-paying jobs. Slightly more than half are the sole earners in their families or make major contributions to family income. Nearly one-third live below 150% of the federal poverty line (about $36,000 for a family of four), and almost half have a high school diploma or less.

Women and Black workers, two groups for whom there is ample evidence of labor market discrimination, are overrepresented among low-wage workers.

While the economic recovery has improved the employment rate for African-Americans and other minorities, it’s clear that wages have not kept pace. It’s time for politicians in Washington to implement policies that help raise wages for millions of low-wage workers, instead of importing an endless supply of cheap foreign laborers for big business interests. We know what happens when businesses have to compete for American workers. Wages rise. 

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