CLEVELAND, Ohio — Despite pay increases over the last two years, a progressive think tank said four of the most common jobs in the Cleveland metro area still pay near poverty level wages.
Policy Matters Ohio released a study Friday that says four of Cleveland’s 10 most common jobs do not pay enough for a typical worker to feed a family of three. In Cleveland’s five-county metro area, those lower-paying occupations account for just over 80,000 employed people.
Average pay for the four categories – retail salespersons, fast food and counter workers, cashiers, and home health and personal care aides – all were near the poverty line in Cleveland and Ohio broadly, according to the report.
Policy Matters used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics Survey. The report released by the organization shows wage gains from 2000 to 2019, gains during the pandemic and 2021 pay as a share of poverty.
Researcher Michael Shields said the organization then used poverty thresholds from the Department of Health and Human Services, which lists making $21,960 a year as the poverty guideline for a family of three. For a household of one, the poverty guideline is $12,880.
Making 130% of the poverty guideline ($28,548) or less is the income threshold for food assistance.
Shields said in a news release that the COVID-19 pandemic and government intervention pushed employers to raise wages, but that inflation has made increases modest at best. He said corporations surprised wages from the early 2000s up until the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For example, retail salespersons averaged $13.06 an hour and saw a $1.21 pay increase from 2019 to 2021. From 2000 to 2019, wages went down 51 cents an hour on average. Their average yearly salary was 124% of the poverty guideline in 2021.
Fast food workers made $10.81 an hour on average, up 60 cents from 2019. Average wages for the job went up 38 cents in 19 years from 2000 to 2019, and the average yearly pay in 2021 is 102% as a share of poverty.
Meanwhile registered nurses, the most common job in Cleveland’s metro area, average $37.53 an hour and got a $1.91 raise since 2019. But even nurses saw wage stagnation, with a 92-cent raise from 2000 to 2019. Registered nurses were at 356% of the poverty guideline in 2021.
Eight of the most commons occupations in Cleveland lost jobs since the start of the pandemic, Policy Matters report showed.