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More Than Half of Salaries Fall Short of Middle Class Living Standards

Posted by Jeff Pelliccio on Dec 28, 2018 9:00:00 AM

In ICS insights, Job Trends, Job Search Tips, Corporate Support, IT, Candidate, Accounting and Finance, Legal and Compliance

More people are working in the United States than at nearly any point before now. That doesn't mean everyone is able to afford the cost of living though. In fact, while the unemployment level is down to 3.7 percent, over 60 percent of workers are not making middle-class living standards. It's why finding the right job offering that has the necessary salary and benefits is so important. We strive to connect professionals with jobs that are within the 38 percent of middle class (or higher) living standards while providing advice to you if you do not yet have the necessary qualifications to obtain some of these positions.

Only Treading Water

While 62 percent of jobs do not pay middle-class living standards, around 52 percent of Americans do live in middle-class households. On top of this, another 20 percent live in upper-income households. Why the number discrepancy? Many of these people work multiple jobs to help pay mortgages or rent. Others have roommates or live with significant others to pool their money and to help stretch their housing budget further.

Others rely on inheritance from parents, while many young adults remain living with their family for longer periods of time as they are not able to afford rent out on their own. This is especially the case when it comes to more expensive metro areas such as New York and Los Angeles. 

Cities With the Highest Share of Middle Class or Better Jobs

If you're in search of a middle-class paying or higher job and are struggling to locate such a position where you live, there are other options to consider. If that is, you're open to moving. In Trenton, New Jersey, nearly 50 percent of all jobs are either middle class or better-paying jobs. Another 27 percent pay a living wage. Only 22.6 percent of the jobs are what experts consider "hardship" jobs, which pay less than $26,070 annually.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa has one of the lowest "hardship" employment numbers at just 18.4 percent. It also has the highest middle-class number of jobs at 31.8 percent (with another 16.5 percent of better-paying positions). Other top performing cities include Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Beaumont, Texas; and Hartford, Connecticut. 

Cities With Poor Middle Class or Better Jobs

On the flip side, there are a number of cities that perform poorly when it comes to middle class or better-paying jobs. If you live in one of these top cities and struggle finding quality work, you're not alone. Nassau, New York, for example, has a staggering 47.6 percent of its jobs listed as "hardship" positions, with just 17.8 percent as a middle-class paying job, with another nine percent as better than the middle class. That's just under 26 percent total (compared to the 50 percent of Trenton, New Jersey).

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina has a whopping 50.9 percent of its jobs classified as "hardship" jobs. However, this number is slightly skewed as it is a popular tourist city, so many of the jobs are basic positions such as vendor workers, and lower level hotel positions (not considered skilled labor).

Other cities with the lowest performing middle class or better jobs include Honolulu, Hawaii; Barnstable Township, Massachusetts; and Santa Rosa, California.

You may wonder how major cities in the United States perform on this list. In fact, most of the cities have similar numbers, each of which is in the middle of the highest performing and lowest performing. Los Angeles, for example, has the highest number of "hardship" jobs at 39.3 percent, with the middle class or better jobs making up 33.3 percent of the jobs. 37.2 percent of New York City's jobs are considered "hardship," while 32.9 percent of the city's jobs are considered a middle class or better. Chicago performs much better though, with 28.6 percent of jobs considered "hardship," while 41.3 percent of jobs are middle class or better. 

Location Determines Middle-Class Expenses

The amount of money you make from one job in a given city directly impacts whether you're in the middle class, and even if you're making middle-class money. There is a "national average" middle-class income, but it's more important to look at what you're making against what it takes to live in the given area.

For example, it costs $7,368 annually to rent a one-bedroom apartment in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. On the flip side, it costs an average of $32,440 to rent a one-bedroom in San Francisco. This is over four times the cost for the same amount of living space. If you were to make $57,000, you'd be doing well in Cedar Rapids, yet in San Francisco, you'd be making almost $30,000 under what you need to make in San Francisco to be considered middle class. So in so many ways, it's all about where you live.

What might sound like an exceptionally paying position in one location, doesn't actually equate. You may live in Minnesota and have a job offer in New York City. The offer in NYC is for $60,000, which might sound fantastic, but if you consider the cost of living compared to where you are right now, there's a good chance you might end up earning less money once rent and taxes are taken out. 

How Are Jobs Classified?

You may wonder how individual jobs are classified, such as what's the difference between a hardship job and a "living wage" job.

A hardship job is one that does not allow a single adult to make ends meet. They must take on multiple jobs, or live with multiple people, in order to scrape together enough money to pay their expenses.

The living wage job, which makes up the largest percentage of jobs in the United States, is enough for a single adult to get by, but it doesn't offer enough money to take vacations, save money for retirement (or for a rainy day), or to even live in middle-class housing, without taking on a second job or a roommate.

A middle-class job does allow for the occasional vacation, the ability to save some money and to eat out, although this only makes up 23 percent of national jobs. Lastly, there is a "professional" job, which makes up just 15 percent of all jobs. This position allows for a more expensive house, additional expenses for better vacations and entertainment activities, such as sporting events and concerts.

Don't Count The Middle-Class Out Yet

The number of jobs a single adult can take on to pay for housing and to live somewhat comfortably is dwindling. You're far more likely to just scrape by and to barely make ends meet. You deserve much more than that, which is why you need a team at your side, dedicated to connecting you with the right line of work and advising you on how you can increase your earning potential. At ICS, that's exactly what we offer, and we are always here to help.

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