Wages

The vast majority of American households’ income comes from what workers receive in their paychecks – which is why wages are so important. Unfortunately, wages for most workers grew exceptionally slowly between 1979 and 2012, despite productivity—which essentially measures the economy’s potential for providing rising living standards for all—rising 64 percent. In other words, most Americans, even those with college degrees, have only been treading water—despite working more productively (and being better educated) than ever.

EARN groups provide key research and policy analysis describing how these trends have played out at the state and local levels, and what policymakers can do about it.

Publications

State of Working Ohio 2019: Realities and Remedies

In many ways, Americans have been given a gift for the last decade – an economic expansion unprecedented in its length. And many of the indicators of the expansion are quite strong: Unemployment levels are very low, particularly for those with college degrees. The nation continues to add jobs each month, though Ohio cannot consistently say the same. And the economy is growing each quarter.

But by other measures, we are far behind previous economic peaks. At this point in the business cycle, labor market participation (the share of those either working or seeking work) should be higher than ever – it is instead lower than in all but one of the last 40 years. After so many years of growth, median wages should be at an all-time high – they are instead lower than they were in 1979, when workers were much less educated and our economy was much less productive. And at this point in the cycle, our elected officials should have used the boom years to be ready for the inevitable bust, by investing in essentials that benefit us all long term. Instead, nationally and in Ohio, policymakers have neglected critical needs, leaving us less equipped to face any looming downturn.

Unions promote stronger, fairer economy for all workers

Labor unions are a time-tested way for workers to organize and negotiate collectively for higher wages, better benefits, and safer working conditions.

By advocating for better conditions in their own workplaces, unions also set standards for workers throughout the country. While union membership has declined since the 1960s, unions are still key to building a stronger, fairer economy for working Americans.

Beyond Kentucky’s low unemployment rate: How workers are really faring this Labor Day?

Op-Ed: “The longest economic recovery on record and a state unemployment rate of 4.3% sounds like a strong foundation for Kentuckians’ prosperity. But a close look at the numbers this Labor Day shows an economy in which many Kentucky communities still lack jobs, especially quality jobs families need to thrive.”

The State of Low-Wage Employment in Colorado

While Colorado’s economy has grown at a brisk pace since the Great Recession and hundreds of thousands of new jobs have been created, a significant amount of jobs in the state barely pay enough to let those who work them make ends meet. Since low-wage jobs make up more than 1/4 of all jobs statewide, it’s important to understand who the workers that fill them are and how those jobs affect the broader economy. This report, which updates previous CFI research from 2015 and 2017, shines a light on these questions and offers some insight into how Colorado compares with other states and the rest of the country as a whole.

With the Labor Day holiday right around the corner, and as Colorado’s statewide minimum wage is set to rise once again in January of 2020 – along with local governments gaining the power to increase their own minimum wage levels above the statewide minimum – policymakers and the public should use these findings as a guide to better understand how the minimum wage works in Colorado.