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Study: Loyola University New Orleans Jesuit Social Research Institute Issues State of Working Florida 2017

Loyola press release - August 31, 2017

The State of Working Florida 2017 finds that, while Florida’s economic and employment levels have recovered from the Great Recession, levels of economic security have not improved. The report shows that increases in the share of low-wage employment and the persistence of wage disparities for women and people of color after the Great Recession enabled an uneven economic recovery and fueled greater income inequality. In 2015, 26.6 percent of all Floridians were either poor or near poverty. This means that more than a quarter of Floridians earn income that is 150 percent or less than the federal poverty line.

“Increasingly in the United States, workers and their families are not able to achieve this security, especially minority households. This pattern is particularly prevalent in Florida, where more than a quarter of working families remain near or below the poverty line,” said Ali Bustamante, Ph.D., JSRI economic policy specialist and principal investigator on the report. “Moreover, the impacts are disproportionate across racial lines and place the heaviest burden on the state’s most vulnerable.”

“As a social justice research and action group, JSRI aims to spotlight the issues, in hopes that civic, political, and business leaders, as well as advocates, nonprofits, volunteers and residents, can help to relieve stress and reverse this troubling trend,” said Fr. Fred Kammer, S.J., J.D., executive director of Loyola’s Jesuit Social Research Institute.

Research finds that the scarcity of good jobs in Florida has eroded economic security due to downward pressures on wages and incomes. In 2016, Florida’s median wage of $16.03 was the lowest median wage the state had experienced in 11 years. Additionally, in 2016, 1 in 5 Florida workers, or 20.1 percent of the workforce, was paid at or below $10 an hour, the highest share of low-wage workers in the past 11 years. Between 2005 and 2016, 44.5 percent of all new employment in Florida was in low-wage jobs, accounting for nearly 1 in every 2 jobs created. Of the 883,000 jobs created during this period, more than 392,000 paid $10 an hour or less. Data also show that people of color and women in Florida experience more severe levels of economic security due to the prevalence of disproportionately lower wages.

The prevalence of economic insecurity in Florida is reflected in the low incomes of typical households, which have not recovered from the Great Recession. In 2015, Florida’s median household income was $49,688, $5,630 less than it was in 2007 (in 2016 inflation-adjusted dollars). Low household incomes have also contributed to rising inequality. In 2015, the bottom 90 percent of income earners in Florida took home 64.2 percent of the income earned in the state, the lowest amount in 11 years studied.

The report concludes with a recommendation that Florida’s leaders make strategic public investments and policy changes that improve the economic reality of all workers and their families. Increasing the minimum wage, promoting union membership, improving enforcement of existing anti-discrimination laws, implementing transparency in pay structures, and increasing educational spending are some key initiatives that Florida policymakers should consider.

Research for the State of Working Florida 2017 was conducted by the Jesuit Social Research Institute (JSRI) at Loyola University New Orleans in partnership with the Center for Labor Research and Studies and the Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy (RISEP) at Florida International University.