Feb. 20, 2006 – Recent statistics show that the fastest-growing jobs in the US also happen to be those with the lowest compensation. At the same time, the minimum wage is, in real dollar terms, the lowest it has been since the law establishing a federal minimum wage, the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, was amended in 1947.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) last month reported that the official unemployment rate had fallen to 4.7 percent.
Buried in the rosy economic scenario portrayed by recent BLS reports is the fact that few jobs in the fastest-growing categories pay well. According to the BLS January jobs report, food-service and service-provider jobs grew a combined 69,000 in January.
The report was followed this month by the BLS annual Occupational Outlook Handbook, which projects continued rapid growth in demand for home-healthcare workers, medical assistants and personal-care aides, all service-related jobs that generally pay little more than the minimum wage.
Though service-related employment categories do include managerial and non-supervisory positions that are better compensated, the majority of such jobs pay little more -- and in some cases, such as restaurant workers, less -- than the minimum wage, which is now less than a third of the average hourly wage, according to an analysis released by the Economic Policy Institute Friday.
Of the 30 fastest-growing occupations, six do not require higher education and another eight demand just an associateâ€™s degree.
According to the EPI, which advocates for a higher wage floor, the minimum wage has been consistently below 40 percent of the average hourly wage for 23 years and has been falling steadily since 1998, the last time it came near the 40 percent mark. Last month, the average hourly wage was $16.41, more than three times the federal minimum.