|Those making $35,000 a year or less are not only still feeling the effects of the devastating downturn, but they're unsure if they'll ever pull out of it. A two-part Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey finds that low-wage workers are feeling worse off now than they were during the recession, while The Wall Street Journal finds unemployed Americans feeling similarly low.
The AP-NORC survey found that half of low-end workers were "not too" or "not at all" confident that their jobs would help them meet their long-term career goals. As its stands, only 41% of workers who have been in dead-end jobs for more than a decade reported ever receiving a promotion.
Their unemployed counterparts, meanwhile, are seeing their jobless benefits shrink from recession-era levels as strapped states cut back. Payouts are shrinking, the length of time unemployed workers are offered benefits is shriveling and alternative options keep disappearing.
Their problems aren't solved by newfound employment, either. Through last month, the U.S. economy had recovered 5.7 million of the 8.7 million jobs shed during the recession. Low-wage jobs are usually the first to come back after a slump, and roughly 65% of the jobs added since the recession officially ended in June 2009 have been the low-wage variety.
Among those holding such jobs, 71% worry about not being able to pay bills, 70% worry about unexpected medical expenses and 53% are still concerned about keeping up with the mortgage. While 44% report that their wages have stagnated over the last five years and 20% say that their pay has dropped, more than half -- 53% -- are far more concerned about losing their job than about their current pay.
A full 74% of low-wage workers said they were satisfied with their job overall, according to an AP survey in September, but that's still well below the 90% of all workers who said the same.
Those without jobs, however, need to convince employers that they're worth hiring. Forty-four percent of employers surveyed said it's tough to find people with the appropriate skills and experience to fill lower-wage jobs, particularly in manufacturing (54%).
While 88% of employers said they were investing in training and education for employees, few low-wage workers were aware of or used such programs. If employers need better workers and their employees need more training, someone needs to step up and start making that connection -- before what feels like a recession actually becomes one again.