In many respects the economy is healing, as both the unemployment rate and hiring statistics slowly improve. But there are growing numbers of Americans being left out.
These are not just the unemployed. Rather they are families that, despite having a working adult in the home, earn less than twice the federal poverty income threshold – a widely recognized measure of family self-sufficiency. They are working, but making too little to build economically secure lives. And their number has grown steadily over the past five years.
They are cashiers and clerks, nursing assistants and lab technicians, truck drivers and waiters. Either they are unable to find good, full-time jobs, or their incomes are inadequate and their prospects for advancement are poor.
New analysis of the most recent U.S. Census American Community Survey by the Working Poor Families Project shows that the number of low-income working families in the United States has increased to 10.4 million in 2011, up from 10.2 million a year earlier. In all, nearly one third of all working families – 32 percent – may not have enough money to meet basic needs.
These stark figures should be on the minds of policymakers in 2013. They should make it a priority to bolster these working families’ economic opportunities by preserving funding for education, training and other programs that help working adults prepare for better jobs and by enacting policies that improve the availability of high-quality jobs.