WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — A new report questions whether the current strong unemployment numbers matter if many workers aren’t making enough money to live on.
According to that report, nearly half of working Americans still struggle to support themselves and their families.
The Trump administration often points to economic strength through strong unemployment numbers, currently around 3.5%.
“A record number of young Americans are now employed,” Trump said during his State of the Union Address.
According to a new study by the Brookings Institute, 44% of workers between 18 and 64 years old only make about $18,000 per year, that’s around $10 per hour.
“The unemployment number is really important, but its not the whole story. You also have to look at wages,” said Martha Ross, 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, we have a lot of janitors, a lot of house keepers, we have a lot of jobs that don’t pay very much,” said Ross.
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,” said Ross.
Some, like Heritage Foundation economist Romina Boccia says a higher minimum wage could actually hurt workers.
“But it’s going to hurt minorities, less educated workers, younger workers who are already seeing this today,” saidBoccia.
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,” said Boccia.
Ross says any solution should include the government and private sector.
“I think it has to be a partnership,” said Ross.