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US / Low-paying jobs and the minimum-wage battle

The new attention to the struggle of the country’s lowest-paid workers reflects one of the more dissatisfying aspects of the current economic recovery. Since 2009, 54 per cent of the new jobs created in the U.S. have been low-wage positions, according to an analysis by EMSI, an employment research firm. In the ten occupations where job growth has been the strongest, nine of them pay average wages of less than $14 an hour, it said.

“What you’re seeing is the birth of a social movement around wages in America,” said David Rolf, the president of a Seattle-based chapter of the Service Employees International Union, which played a key role in the recent ballot measure in the city of SeaTac. The four-year old economic recovery is one that “working people have heard about on TV but have yet to experience.”

President Barack Obama reiterated his support for a higher minimum wage in a major speech on income inequality last week. “We know that there are airport workers, and fast-food workers, and nurse assistants, and retail salespeople who work their tails off and are still living at or barely above poverty,” he said.

Mr. Obama and Democratic lawmakers favour a proposal to lift the national minimum wage to $10.10 and tie future increases to inflation, but they face stiff opposition from Republicans and trade associations.

Last week, the International Franchise Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a survey of companies that suggests a significant majority of employers would make “adverse” personnel decisions if the minimum wage were raised even to $9 an hour. Such a policy would ultimately “reduce economic opportunities for low-skilled employees,” said Randy Johnson, a senior official at the Chamber of Commerce, in a statement.

Surveys find widespread support for increasing the minimum wage. A November poll by Gallup showed that 76 per cent supported boosting the wage floor to $9 an hour. “Broadly speaking, the public does not view this through an ideological lens,” said Gary Burtless, a labour economist at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. “They generally support raising the minimum wage when it is below its historical norm, which is where it is now.” Adjusted for inflation, the U.S. minimum wage peaked in 1968, when it stood at the equivalent of $10.60 in today’s dollars.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at 

globe and mail

via As low-paying jobs grow, minimum-wage battle ripples across U.S. – The Globe and Mail.

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