Low wages a concern as unemployment numbers drop, new report says

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WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – A new report questions whether the current strong unemployment numbers matter if many workers aren’t making enough money to live on.

The Trump administration often points to economic strength through strong unemployment numbers. The number is currently around 3.5 percent.

But according to a new study by the Brookings Institute, 44 percent of workers between 18 and 64 years old only make about $18,000 a year. That’s about $10 an hour.

“The unemployment number is really important but it’s not the whole story,” Martha Ross from the Brookings Institute said. “You also have to look at wages.”

Ross was one of the study’s authors. She says those wages often aren’t enough to live on – especially for millions of service-sector workers.

“We have a lot of retail clerks, a lot of janitors, a lot of housekeepers,” she said. “We have a lot of jobs that don’t pay very much.”

The study says part of the solution is more education and skill-building, along with employers paying more.

“I think a higher minimum wage is part of it,” Ross said.

But some, like Heritage Foundation Economist Romina Boccia, says that could actually hurt workers.

“It’s going to hurt minorities, less-educated workers, younger workers who are already seeing this today,” Boccia said.

She says a broader approach is needed.

“We also need to look at where are the barriers that are keeping people from moving into higher-earning positions,” she said.

Ross says any solution should include the government and private sector.

“I think it has to be a partnership,” she said.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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