Last year, six of Ohio’s 10 most common jobs paid so little that a typical worker would need food assistance to feed a family of three — generally less than $26,000 a year.

From the booming Columbus metro area to struggling Youngstown, too many jobs across Ohio don’t pay enough for families to get by.

The research by Hannah Halbert, with research assistance from Isaac Miller of Policy Matters Ohio shows that too many jobs in Cincinnati pay too little and many pay less as a share of poverty than they did nearly two decades ago. New data released by the U.S. Department of Labor show that six of the Cincinnati area’s 10 most common jobs pay the typical worker too little to feed a family of three without food assistance (earnings under 130 percent of poverty typically qualify).

At a time when state and federal policymakers are determined to erect new barriers to food assistance and health care, these new data show that the challenge is not requiring people to work, as most already do. Rather, the true challenge is getting employers—many of which are major international corporations with vast profits—to pay their workers a fair wage with benefits and set a schedule that provides some measure of job security.

Low wages were not always so ubiquitous in the Cincinnati area. In 2000, five of the 10 most common occupations paid so little that a family of three was left dependent on food assistance to get by- now it’s six. Some occupations paid less as a share of poverty in 2017 than they did a decade and a half ago. The new rules of Ohio’s labor market are so tilted in favorof corporate employers that many Cincinnatians will not be able to work their way to self-sufficiency.

The fact sheet for the Cincinnati area shows the median annual salary and hourly wage of the metro area’s 10 most common jobs in 2000 and 2017, and how far they went towards lifting a family of three out of poverty. The fact sheets also contain data showing which sectors have grown and which have declined since 2017.

“State and federal leaders are trying to create new barriers to health care, food aid and housing assistance. If they succeed, many of Ohio’s working people will slip deeper into poverty.”

“Throughout Ohio, not only are many of the most common jobs paying extremely low wages, many do less to lift working people out of poverty than they did in 2000,” Policy Matters Ohio Researcher Hannah Halbert said. “State and federal leaders are trying to create new barriers to health care, food aid and housing assistance. If they succeed, many of Ohio’s working people will slip deeper into poverty.”

Working for Less

Most common occupations in the Cincinnati metropolitan area, by employment, 2017

page1image249770912

Top 10 occupations 2017

page1image217104592

page1image217105424 page1image249765312

Total Employment

page1image249740352 page1image249740960

page1image130905248

Median Hourly Wage

page1image130904352

page1image217588912

Median Annual Salary

page1image244367120

page1image250051424

Median annual earnings as a share of poverty

page1image217478848

Food Prep & Serving Workers, including Fast Food (-)

31,720

$9.18

$19,090

93%

page1image244798304

Retail Salespersons (+)

page1image217744544

page1image217739968 page1image217745712

29,450

page1image217738752 page1image217739360

page1image311361328

$10.95

page1image131679936

page1image251376128

$22,780

page1image311086592

page1image311268128

112%

page1image310533488

Registered Nurses (+)

page1image310416304

23,580

page1image310671296 page1image311124144

$30.80

page1image310815104

$64,050

page1image215549680

314%

page1image310858720

Laborers & Freight, Stock & Material Movers (+)

23,190

$13.59

$28,260

138%

page1image215184304

Cashiers (+)

page1image215543760 page1image310612048

21,320

page1image215652512

$9.50

page1image215335488

$19,760

page1image311066384

97%

page1image310671568

Waiters & Waitresses (-)

page1image243739824

page1image243737584 page1image215305264

20,170

page1image251501744 page1image251382944

page1image311312368

$9.16

page1image310910736

page1image311314928

$19,050

page1image311314128

page1image310900752

93%

page1image310598160

Customer Service Reps (-)

20,080

$15.31

$31,840

156%

page1image310620112

Stock Clerks & Order Fillers (+)

page1image310664160 page1image310622480

17,640

page1image250848320

$11.87

page1image311348784

$24,690

page1image310629872

121%

page1image310682096

Office Clerks (+)

page1image310603856

page1image310686304 page1image310684112

17,440

page1image311048528 page1image311049072

page1image311392992

$15.29

page1image311392112

page1image310718256

$31,800

page1image310716784

page1image310704560

156%

page1image310703184

Janitors & Cleaners, except Maids & Housekeeping (-)

page1image310785024

15,670

page1image310998416 page1image310785920

$11.42

page1image310890320

$23,750

page1image310931392

116%

page1image310861072

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey, May 2017 estimates, available at https://www.bls.gov/oes/tables.htm, accessed April 13, 2018. Largest detail occupations in Cincinnati MSA by employment. Median annual earnings shown as a share of the poverty threshold for a family of three in 2017 ($20,420). The gross monthly income threshold for food assistance is generally 130 percent of poverty. Red text highlights the occupations paying a typical wage below this threshold. (-) indicates a median wage lower than the state median for that occupation. (+) indicates a median wage higher than the state’s for that occupation. Note that Cincinnati MSA includes areas in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.

 

“Examining statewide numbers, Ohio may look better off than it really is,” Halbert said. Although the state has recovered all the jobs lost during the recession, since 2007, 215,000 fewer Ohioans are participating in the workforce — pushing down last year’s statewide unemployment rate of 5 percent. Statewide data also masks deep regional disparities and wage stagnation.

Wrong Direction

Cincinnati MSA occupations, employment and median annual wage: 2000 and 2017

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Top 10 occupations 2000

page2image133617088

page2image133617920 page2image133764992

Earnings as share of poverty

page2image249264672 page2image249265280

Top 10 occupations 2017

page2image246396256 page2image245699808

Earnings as share of poverty

page2image249219232 page2image249234000

Retail Salespersons

119%

Food Prep & Serving Workers, including Fast Food-

93%

page2image249010192

Cashiers

page2image246153216

page2image248752912 page2image246255328

102%

page2image248753648 page2image248754256

Retail Salesperson-

page2image246204448 page2image246202368

112%

page2image246205168 page2image246205776

Laborers & Freight, Stock & Material Movers

page2image246345216

141%

page2image245632016 page2image245632624

Registered Nurses+

314%

page2image245879536 page2image245876896

Food Prep & Serving Workers, including Fast Food

page2image249340816

97%

page2image246090064 page2image246090672

Laborers & Freight, Stock & Material Movers-

138%

page2image245748448 page2image245749056

General & Operations Managers

402%

Cashiers-

97%

page2image248731808

Office Clerks

page2image249460192 page2image249429248

152%

Waiters & Waitresses

page2image246210304 page2image245862544

93%

page2image245526848

Customer Service Reps

page2image249213120 page2image249212576

177%

Customer Service Reps-

page2image248631456 page2image249215696

156%

page2image249286976

Registered Nurses

page2image248793024

page2image248793728 page2image248794208

295%

page2image245810992 page2image245811600

Stock Clerks & Order Fillers-

page2image246001696 page2image246002240

121%

page2image249017168 page2image249017776

Waiters & Waitresses

page2image245745968

93%

page2image245841888 page2image245922752

Office Clerks+

156%

page2image245734976 page2image245735584

Packers and Packagers

page2image249530432

120%

page2image249314176 page2image245769328

Janitors & Cleaners, except Maids & Housekeeping-

116%

page2image246013456 page2image246014832

Source: BLS, OES Survey, 2000 Cincinnati MSA estimates and May 2017 estimates, accessed 4/13/18 at https://www.bls.gov/oes/tables.htm. Largest detail occupations in Cincinnati MSA by employment. Median annual earnings shown as share of poverty threshold for a family of three in 2000 ($14,150) and 2017 ($20,420). The gross monthly income threshold for food assistance is generally 130 percent of poverty. Red font notes occupations that have median annual earnings under 130% of poverty for a family of three. (+) indicates earnings increased since 2000, (-) indicates the earnings decreased since 2000, as a share of poverty. Note that Cincinnati MSA includes areas in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.

 

“Ohio needs leaders who will make a renewed public commitment to working people,” Halbert said. “Both the nation and state have productive economies with abundant wealth. We can use policy to shape the economy to benefit working people. Only the lack of political will keeps leaders from passing policies to improve job quality, make education and training affordable and fund basic services like transit and childcare that help people work.”

The Cincinnati region on average had 1,093,600 jobs last year. That’s 49,800 more jobs than in 2007, when the last recession began. The Cincinnati region has been a driver of the Ohio recovery. One of the top jobs, registered nurse, provides better earnings. This job relies in part on maintaining expanded health coverage. Yet, many of the jobs that have grown over recent years do not offer the same income or stability as those lost. Manufacturing took the biggest hit. Growing sectors, like leisure and hospitality, often pay poorly and lack benefits.

Job quality has been eroded. Ohio tax policy has sent big cuts to the wealthiest, shrinking funding for education, infrastructure, and healthcare—investments that help working people and their kids get ahead.

Job quality has been eroded. Ohio tax policy has sent big cuts to the wealthiest, shrinking funding for education, infrastructure, and healthcare—investments that help working people and their kids get ahead.

Policy Matters Ohio has set out 10 policy priorities that help working people by raising wages, extending overtime protections, providing paid leave, preserving public jobs and more. These new data show that such policies are essential in the Cincinnati region where jobs still make it hard to get by.

1 COMMENT

  1. Corporations have been used to being able to pay workers low wages. Now, the tide is slowly turning as the US has a record number of job openings in 2018. Greed is the underlying factor in corporations paying low wages (despite their stated propaganda about “people are our most important asset” and the like).

    This article from NPR describes how corporations are finally having to face the fact that they need to pay more to attract workers:

    https://www.npr.org/2017/08/31/547646709/u-s-employers-struggle-to-match-workers-with-open-jobs

    “In the United States, there’s a record number of jobs open: around 6 million. That’s just about one job opening for every officially unemployed person in the country.

    Matching the unemployed with the right job is difficult, but there are some things employers could do to improve the odds.

    Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist for the job site Glassdoor, says U.S. employers often complain that workers don’t have the skills needed for the jobs available. That is true for some upper-level health care and technology jobs. “But for the most part, it doesn’t look to be like there is a skills gap,” Chamberlain says. “That’s not the main reason why there are many job openings.”

    Chamberlain says that with unemployment so low and the U.S. labor force growing slowly, there’s no doubt it is harder for companies to find workers. But he says if that were the main problem, you would see wages rising more rapidly in the economy — and that’s not the case in many industries.

    Part of the hiring problem, Chamberlain says, lies in company hiring policies.

    Peter Cappelli, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, agrees. He says one problem is that companies are posting openings with required qualifications that aren’t really necessary for the job.

    “They’re just asking for the moon, and not expecting to pay very much for it,” Cappelli says. “And as a result they [can’t] find those people. Now that [doesn’t] mean there was nobody to do the job; it just [means] that there was nobody at the price they were willing to pay.”

    Jason Lorenz has seen that in his work at Human Technology Inc., a corporate recruiter that provides workers for firms in the Carolinas, many of which are parts manufacturers for Ford, GM and BMW. Lorenz says the companies come to him with a long checklist of qualifications, and he challenges them to get realistic.

    “We understand that you would love to have that perfect employee, but give me a couple of things a successful candidate would look like for this specific job on this shift,” Lorenz says.

    For instance, he asks, do these candidates only need to show up on time, get along with co-workers and be able to lift 35 pounds, or do they need to be able to operate a computer?

    Lorenz says another thing employers need to understand is that wages need to rise, even at entry levels, if they want to fill jobs. He says he is telling manufacturers, “If you are below $12 an hour, I don’t know that I’m going to be the person to be able to help you with those jobs.”

    That’s because in the past year, job openings have nearly doubled in western North Carolina where he works, and the supply of additional workers is shrinking fast.

    Cappelli says another part of the problem is that employers haven’t adjusted to new conditions. For years they’ve had their choice of workers desperate for a job. Now, the labor market has tightened, but many employers haven’t responded, he says.

    “Wages have not gone up despite all the talk about a tight labor market. And I think most important for the economy, we still don’t see lots of employers being willing to take people in right out of school and train them for jobs,” Cappelli says.

    Lorenz says that is also the case at many companies he deals with. Companies anxious to meet quarterly earnings targets don’t want to spend money training workers. That has left the ball in his court — so he finds workers and gets them enrolled in community college programs.

    “Then we’re able to move those folks from an entry-level position at the $10-to-$12 range and then promote them within those companies at the $16- to $17-an-hour range,” Lorenz says.

    Glassdoor’s Chamberlain says it is important for companies to adjust their behaviors, for their own good.

    “Every open position in the economy is money left on the table,” he says. “It’s a lost paycheck to a worker. It’s also lost productivity to the company.”

    And it’s lost growth for the U.S. economy.”

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