Friday, July 5, 2013

Low-Wage And Temporary Workers Are Propping Up The Recovery

The monthly jobs report showed steady if slow economic growth, with 195,000 jobs added to the economy in June. However, the bulk of these jobs were concentrated in low-wage service industry jobs, an ongoing trend of a recovery that has been propped up by low-wage and temporary jobs that often lack benefits and basic labor protections. In total, more than 62 percent of this month’s job growth was due to a proliferation of low-wage jobs in hospitality, temp services, and retail.

The leisure and hospitality industry enjoyed the strongest growth in June with 75,000 new positions, about 2.5 times the growth the industry saw a year ago. Restaurant and barista jobs made up 52,000 of these jobs. Retail also continued to see strong gains, adding 37,000 new jobs.

Business and professional services grew by 52,000 — 10,000 of which were temporary help jobs. Many companies are increasingly leaning on temporary workers, who are disposable and do not qualify for the benefits granted to permanent employees. Temporary employment agencies are able to offer even cheaper labor by targeting undocumented immigrants who will silently endure exploitation and even abuse for fear of deportation.

Meanwhile, the number of workers who are involuntarily working part-time rose 322,000 to a total of 8.2 million in June, mainly because businesses are cutting their hours. Republicans immediately seized on this data as proof that companies are being forced to scale back to avoid an Obamacare requirement that all employees who work 30 hours or more be offered health insurance.

However, businesses have been shifting to a part-time workforce for years before Obamacare was even passed. By keeping employees’ hours just below full-time, companies can not only avoid offering benefits, but also duck an unemployment tax and keep workers from unionizing. Part-time workers must then grapple with erratic schedules that leave them scrambling to make enough to support themselves and their families.

Thus far, the majority of jobs created since the recession are low-wage and low-benefit, paying less than $14 an hour. Hourly wages have dropped to an all-time low — even as executive pay reaches record heights of $9.7 million a year.

American taxpayers usually end up picking up the slack when businesses decline to support their employees. Unable to survive on part-time minimum wages, these workers are often forced to rely on public benefits like food stamps and Medicaid. Staff at a single Walmart store can consume as much as $1 million in taxpayer money every year to supplement their paltry wages.

As businesses increasingly strip benefits and hours, thousands of service industry workers have risen up to demand livable wages and an end to exploitative practices. The Congressional Progressive Caucus has also launched a campaign to push for greater scrutiny on companies that take advantage of their employees.

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