Labor Day 2013 is upon us, and Minnesota’s economy is slow improving. Home sales and home prices are rebounding, and the state is on its best financial footing in years, revenue-wise.
But do the economic improvements help close the persistent gap between the haves and have-nots, a gap between high- and low-wage Minnesotans that’s been growing for more than 30 years?
Not according to an August study from the Minnesota Budget Project, an initiative of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.
According to the research, part of a report titled “In the Shadow of the Great Recession: The State of Working Minnesota 2013”:
- Low-wage workers are seeing much slower wage growth than high-wage workers.
- More people are unemployed for longer periods of time, which can have a large impact on a person’s finances, career prospects, and family.
- Many workers are underemployed, and still need jobs with more hours that match their skills.
- Many are accepting part-time work because they cannot find full-time jobs.
- And fewer Minnesotans are working or looking for work, as the recovery has not yet created enough jobs.
Between 1979 and 2012, according to the study, high-wage workers saw their wages increase by 26 percent, but the wages of low-wage workers only increased by 5 percent and middle-income workers’ wages increased by 12 percent.
In 1979, the median wage of high-wage workers in Minnesota was 3.1 times higher than the median wage of low-wage workers. As of 2012, it had grown to 3.7 times higher.
The research indicates that a sizable gap between men’s and women’s wages continues, and that people of color are much more likely to be underemployed.
On this Labor Day, it’s important to remember that, just as the Great Recession didn’t equally affect all income levels, races, and genders, neither is the economic recovery providing uniform benefits across the board. There’s a lot of catch-up to be done, my friends.