The economy is getting better, but there's a catch
Employment news is a mixed bag these days. First, the good news: There’s work. The unemployment rate is dropping, and a growing number of surveys indicate that companies plan to hire and even pay more.
But—and this is a big caveat—the jobs aren’t necessarily the ones you’d like to take, especially if you’re looking for a decent salary or prefer more sedentary employment. This is work work, where you’ll probably be on your feet and dealing with things that are hot, dirty or dangerous (or all three).
Credit.com analyzed a report put out by the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group for low-wage workers, that breaks down how many people earn $15 an hour or less in a variety of low-wage jobs, then compared it to government projections for job growth through 2022. Unfortunately, a lot of the fastest-growing jobs are the ones that pay the least.
There’s plenty of opportunity — if not money — in the quote-unquote McJobs category. The NELP report finds that more than 400,000 people will join the nearly 2 million Americans with jobs in food preparation (including fast food), but the median hourly wage is only $9. Fewer than 12% of these workers see more than $15 an hour in their paychecks for jobs that often involve long hours on your feet over a hot stove or fryer. “As a result, many workers rely on public assistance to make ends meet,” NELP says.
But the plentiful-but-poor jobs go way beyond just flipping burgers. Right now, about 1.2 million people work as personal care aides, providing crucial assistance to elderly or disabled people. As baby boomers age, the number of people working these jobs will increase by almost 50%. It’s hard work dressing, bathing, making meals for and cleaning up after others, but that isn’t reflected in the pay. NELP finds that the median wage is only $10 an hour, and about 78% make less than $15 an hour. In a similar vein, the number of nursing assistants is expected to go up by more than 20%, but these workers make around $12 an hour at the median, even though they also do a lot of literal and figurative heavy lifting taking care of people.
In another recent study, WalletHub.com analyzed 109 entry-level jobs, most of which require at least some, if not extensive, post high-school education or certification, to pick out the best and the worst. The top 10 list is dominated by tech jobs, with a few number-crunching gigs (financial analyst, engineer) thrown in. In other words, even though these are entry-level jobs, applicants need both skills and degrees to break into this market.
On the flip side, there’s a much lower bar to entry for what WalletHub labels the worst jobs. Some are equally skilled, but you need to have a healthy respect for manual labor and a willingness to play with fire (literally — the bottom 10 list includes boilermaker and welder). Some of these wind up on the bottom not because of poor pay but because of the potentially dangerous working conditions. Others — like electronics assembler, sheet-metal mechanic and consumer loan servicing clerk — make the “worst” list because there are so few of these jobs out there. If you land one, great, but it’s not the type of thing you’d tell your kids to make their career path.
And finally, there are the worst jobs that wind up there because the pay is horrible or the potential for income growth is lousy, like certified nursing assistants, which fall in the bottom five on both counts of the WalletHub survey.
“A low wage can make it difficult for people to pay bills on time, keeping their credit reports free of collection accounts or other negatives… [and] managing day-to-day expenses in addition to paying down outstanding balances can be even more challenging,” Credit.com says.