Study: State’s recovery mostly benefits upper-income workers




NEW HAVEN — Fewer jobs, declining wages and growing unemployment plague segments of Connecticut’s workforce who find it more difficult to sustain a living wage even as the economy purportedly improves, according to the latest Connecticut Voices for Children report.


Titled “States of Working Connecticut 2014,” the report maintains that lack of jobs and low wages for low- and middle-income workers must be addressed in order for the state to fully recover from the recession.


“Only Connecticut’s highest earners have seen wage growth since 2000,” a release summarizing the report states. “Low- and median-wage earners have watched their inflation-adjusted wages stagnate, while high-wage workers have enjoyed a raise of nearly 50 percent.”


The state has 50,000 fewer jobs than it did at the beginning of the recession, and some 100,000 fewer positions than in 1989, according to the report. What is more, says the report, young workers, workers of color and those with less education are hit much harder than others where jobs and wages are concerned. Last year, the unemployment rate for workers ages 16 to 24 was about twice that (13.8 percent) of adults age 25 to 54 (7 percent), according to the report. Race also played a factor in wages, with black and Hispanic workers earning less than whites. The median hourly wage for black workers was 72 percent of what whites made, and for Hispanics the median wage was 63 percent of the wages of whites.


CVC, a research-based policy think tank that focuses on how social, economic and political issues impact Connecticut’s children and families, asserts that the job and wage disparities it documented are dire.


“The children of today’s struggling workers will form the backbone of tomorrow’s workforce,” said Ellen Shemitz, CVC executive director, in the release. “If we want to ensure the future success of our state, then we need to make smart investments today in children, families and educational opportunity. Smart policies that make work pay and that ensure meaningful pathways to success should not be considered matters of choice. They are clear necessities.”


CVC recommended restoring the state’s earned-income tax credit to its original level, and making high-quality early childhood care and education more accessible, among other remedies to help low-income families. This would benefit the economy in the long run, according to Wade Gibson, CVC’s director of fiscal policy and co-author of the report.


“By investing in the education of our children and supporting them through our tax code,” said Gibson, “we can support struggling families today and build a healthier economic future.”