Wage Inequality Grows

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“Even though Utah wages have recovered from the historic downturn more quickly than the nation overall, they remain below pre-recession levels.  Wage inequality has grown in Utah.”                   –Matthew Weinstein, Voices for Utah Children

The lower 40 percent of wage earners today are worse off in Utah than nationally.  “That’s a big part of why our poverty rates have remained so mush higher than they were a decade ago,” Weinstein reported.

The percentage of Utahns at or below the poverty line was 12.7 percent in 2013, up from 10.6 percent in 2003 and 8.8 percent in 2000.

The University of Utah collaborated report stressed that new jobs in Utah pay far less than those they replaced.  Positions lost from first quarter 2008 to first quarter 2010 had an average wage of $53,277, while jobs added from second quarter 2010 to second quarter 2014 had an average wage of $41,342–a 22 percent decline.

Construction and manufacturing sectors–which included higher wage positions–saw significant job losses during the recession.  Meanwhile, the fastest growing sectors have included lower paying industries such as health care and retail trade.

The nation’s recovered economic output is at 99.8 percent of the pre-recession level, while Utah comes in at 98.9 percent–ranking Utah number 35.

Weinstein said one way Utah could help lower-income earners advance would be for the state to develop its own version of the federal earned income tax credit.  “That would have a direct effect and add hundreds of dollars to the hardest hit working families struggling to raise their kids in this economy,” he offered.

Another way to help would be to expand Medicaid.  “Medical bills are a huge challenge to lower income families.  Medical debt is responsible for a large number of bankruptcies at the lower end of the economic spectrum,” Weinstein said.

Horizonte, Salt Lake School District’s alternative high school and adult education provider, seeks to prepare its 700 plus high school age students and 2,100 plus adult students for post high school opportunities including jobs, and scholarships for applied technology certificate training and college.