3.7 % unemployment is just the latest statistic being broadcast to Americans so we will think that all is right with the economy, when it’s the number that points to exactly what is wrong with our country. Inequality in income and disparity of wealth are the headlines that resonate in today’s environment.
Economic Boom Bypasses Middle-Class
Sure, there are more jobs. Unemployment has been steadily decreasing and now is at its low since 2000. But it’s not that simple and it doesn’t translate to an economic boom for all—far from it. There are many factors that impact the unemployment rate, with job growth being just one. The blue-collar sector continues to drive job creation. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, job gains appeared primarily in healthcare, manufacturing, construction, transportation and warehousing. While these have long been considered middle-income “good jobs”, job creation in these sectors will not change the economic reality of the working- and middle-class. These individuals still struggle to afford the basic living necessities of food, shelter, childcare, healthcare and transportation as wages remain essentially flat while the price of these daily goods increases. Since late 2016, gasoline alone was up 23.5%, adding $37.38 per month to a typical family’s expenses.
Stagnant wages underscore wealth disparity
With low unemployment, I would assume that wages would increase due to supply and demand for talent, but that hasn’t occurred. The tax cuts benefiting corporations didn’t translate to a rise in workers’ wages or in their skill development. Employers are hiring contract workers instead of full-time, saving in benefits and adding to their bottom line profits, while at the same time lamenting over a shortage of worker talent. Many of the jobs being created require middle skills – more experience than high school, but less than a 4-year college – creating a skills gap among the most depressed workers, cementing them as low income earners and furthering the disparity of wealth in our country.
Hiring Crisis Magnified through Educators
We have an abundance of jobs, but we need more skilled workers to bridge the gap for our future and create wealth for all in order to raise up the lowest income earners. It would make sense to turn to our educators to determine how best to achieve this, yet we continue to undervalue and underpay them. The public largely agrees. Nearly 60% of people in a Ipsos/USA Today survey released Sept. 12 think teachers are underpaid and a majority of both Republicans and Democrats believe that teachers have the right to strike.
In 2016, for instance, the average teacher’s starting salary was $38,617—20% lower than that of other professions requiring a college degree. If the classroom is where our future lies, why aren’t we investing in our country from the start? We should strive to turn demoralizing teacher wages into a well-paid desired profession and the classroom into an incubator for skill development, dismantling the public school hiring crisis.
Where is our “land of opportunity” mentality? Somewhere along the way it’s been forgotten that this belief was meant for all Americans, not just the opportunists.