Esther Akutekha, who lives in Brooklyn, New York, has a good job as a public relations specialist that pays more than $50,000 a year.
But because of the $1,440 a month rent on her studio apartment in the Prospect-Lefferts Gardens neighborhood, she never takes vacations, dines out just once a month and scrapes together dinner leftovers for lunch the next day.
“I’m frustrated with the fact that I’m not going to be able to save anything because my rent is so high,” says Akutekha, who says she’s 30ish. “I don’t even know if I can afford” to have children.
Despite an unemployment rate that has reached a 50-year low of 3.7 percent, most jobs across the U.S. don’t support a middle-class or better lifestyle, leaving many Americans struggling, according to a new study.
Sixty-two percent of jobs fall short of that middle-class standard when factoring in both wages and the cost of living in the metro area where the job is located, according to the study by Third Way, a think tank that advocates center-left ideas.
“There’s an opportunity crisis in the country,” says Jim Kessler, vice president of policy for Third Way and editor of the report. “It explains some of the economic uneasiness and, frankly, the political uneasiness” even amid the most robust U.S. economy and labor market since before the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009.
A slight majority of Americans, 52 percent, do live in middle-class households, according to recent annual reports by Pew Research Center. And another 20 percent or so live in upper income households. But that’s because they’re juggling multiple jobs, for example, or relying on investments, an inheritance or other household members who may have higher-paying jobs.
America has a wage problem.
The country is projected to add almost 8 million jobs through 2022, representing 5 percent growth, according to a new study from CareerBuilder. Even though that represents a positive trend, the findings raise major red flags: Low-wage jobs are expected to grow the fastest, while middle-wage work will continue to decline.
The job growth would represent a continuation of the recovery witnessed since the Great Recession ended, when employers cut workers and were slow to start hiring again. Yet the quality of jobs is increasingly a focus of economists and policymakers because "Automation is eliminating middle-wage workers," said CareerBuilder spokeswoman Jennifer Grasz. That trend is likely to continue.
"For a lot of workers becoming displaced," Grasz added, "there has to be an action plan, or they have to go back to the classroom to learn new skills." Without learning new skills, some of those workers will be pushed into low-wage jobs, or positions that pay less than $14.25 an hour.
Middle-wage jobs are those that pay between $14.26 and $23.23 an hour, while high-wage jobs pay $23.24 or more per hour, CareerBuilder said.
The fastest-growing professions are STEM-related careers, or jobs in science, technology, engineering and math. They also tend to be higher-paying positions, such as software developers, who earn median hourly wages of $50.03.
The low-wage jobs that are projected to grow quickly are roles that can't be left to automation, such as home health aides, taxi drivers and food prep, Grasz said.