What Good Is Job Growth If You Can’t Earn a Living Wage?

Tomorrow’s job report from the Labor Department is expected to reflect approximately 200,000 jobs added in April, and an unemployment rate holding steady at 5 percent. However, if you take a closer look at the data, a less rosy picture of the economy emerges. A disproportionate number of those jobs being added are in fact low-wage jobs. Besides the obvious fact that low-wage jobs don’t afford a very cushy life for workers, very few offer health benefits, sick pay/leave, PTO, or retirement plans.

empty pockets

(Photo Credit: Richie Diesterheft/Flickr)

In fact, “only a third of low-wage jobs offer health insurance,” and “only a quarter offer workers any kind of retirement plan,” reports NBC News. This is troublesome because making less money means that it’s harder for these individuals to make ends meet, therefore there are little to no “leftover” funds to devote to savings (a.k.a. retirement). 

What types of jobs are we talking about, here? A lot of the jobs reside in healthcare support; surprisingly, some of the lowest paid workers in America are the ones helping us all stay healthy, happy, and alive. Here are the top 10 occupations with the most projected job growth until 2024, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

1. Personal Care Aides

Median Annual Salary: $20,980

Estimated Job Growth by 2024: 458,100

2. Registered Nurse

Median Annual Salary: $67,490

Estimated Job Growth by 2024: 439,300

3. Home Health Aides

Median Annual Salary: $21,920

Estimated Job Growth by 2024: 348,400

4. Combined Food Preparation and Serving Workers (including fast food)

Median Annual Salary: $18,910

Estimated Job Growth by 2024: 343,500 

5. Retail Salesperson

Median Annual Salary: $21,780

Estimated Job Growth by 2024: 314,200

6. Nursing Assistant

Median Annual Salary: $25,710

Estimated Job Growth by 2024: 262,000 

7. Customer Service Representatives

Median Annual Salary: $31,720

Estimated Job Growth by 2024: 252,900

8. Cooks, Restaurant

Median Annual Salary: $23,100

Estimated Job Growth by 2024: 158,900

9. General/Operations Managers

Median Annual Salary: $97,730

Estimated Job Growth by 2024: 151,100

10. Construction Laborers

Median Annual Salary: $31,910

Estimated Job Growth by 2024: 147,400

Please take note that the average median salary for the jobs listed above is only $36,125, however only two of the 10 professions earn more than said median salary. The two occupations that earn the most out of the top 10 are Registered Nurse (ranked No. 2), with an average median salary of $67,490; and General/Operations Manager (ranked No. 9), with an average median salary of $97,730.

The Gender Pay Gap in Low-Wage Jobs

Another pill that’s hard to swallow is the gender pay gap that exists in low-wage jobs. The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) reports that women make up about two-thirds of the 23 million+ workers in the low-wage workforce, and it’s estimated that they are “paid 15 percent less than their male counterparts.” In a separate article, NWLC notes that, “Low-wage work often leaves women working full time below or near the poverty line and unable to balance work and caregiving responsibilities,” which is definitely not good for working women in low-wage jobs, or their families.

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