BOISE - Anyone who was lucky enough to find a job in Washington or Idaho in 2008 likely ended up with one that doesn’t pay enough to support a family, according to a new study out Thursday.
The Northwest Job Gap study, which the Northwest Confederation of Community Organizations has sponsored each year or two since 1999, calculated that a living wage for a single adult with two children in Washington was $28.67 an hour, and 77 percent of job openings last year didn’t pay that much. In Idaho, the figure was $26.98 an hour, and 89 percent of job openings fell short.
Not only that, the report noted that since the 2008 figures were gathered, the situation’s worsened considerably, with the number of job seekers in Colorado, Idaho, Oregon and Washington nearly doubling.
“Due to the economic conditions, things are not getting better - they’re getting worse,” said Boise economist Don Reading. “There are fewer jobs available. They’re paying lower wages.”
Terri Stirling, a Culdesac, Idaho, resident and a volunteer with the Idaho Community Action Network, said, “It’s not a pretty picture out there, the economy. … I need a job. I have a college education.”
The married mother of four, who earned a master’s degree from the University of Idaho in interdisciplinary studies in 2007, was laid off from her job in October, one month after her husband went back to work after nine months of joblessness.
“It definitely is pretty grim,” said Rowena Pineda, executive director of ICAN, one of four statewide “community-based social and economic justice organizations” that join together in the Northwest Confederation. “We have members who have lost jobs this year, who have lost homes this year.”
As President Barack Obama held his jobs summit on Thursday, ICAN convened a dozen business owners, job seekers and activists to share ideas in Boise on how to generate higher-paying jobs in Idaho. Ideas ranged from encouraging Idahoans to buy locally made products instead of cheap imports to a New Deal-style government jobs program to put the unemployed back to work.
The study found that a living wage - defined as enough to meet basic needs and also deal with emergencies and plan ahead - for a single adult in Idaho is $12.41 per hour; in Washington, $13.56 per hour. For a single adult with one child, that rises to $21.90 an hour in Idaho and $21.76 an hour in Washington.
Forty-three percent of Idaho’s job openings in 2008 paid less than the living wage for a single adult, as did 33 percent of the openings in Washington, the study found.
That gap has been growing; back in 2004, the group’s similar study found that 29 percent of Idaho job openings paid less than a living wage for a single adult, and 78 percent paid less than the living wage for an adult with two children. In Washington, the 2004 figures were 26 percent and 77 percent.