New study finds Florida seriously lacking in jobs that pay a living wage

According to a new study published today, the living wage required for a single person in Florida to support him or herself is $16.84 an hour. That amount jumps to $39.48 for somebody with a family of three others to support. Unfortunately, the majority of available jobs in the Sunshine State don't pay anywhere near those amounts.

In "America's Changing Economy," written by the group Alliance for a Just Society, there are 13 job seekers in the state for each living wage job opening. The report says that it's even more difficult for job seekers with a family to support, with 53 job seekers looking to make $39.48 an hour, which the study says is a living wage for a family with two working adults and two children.

This is what's called "the jobs gap," according to Ben Henry, the lead author of the study. On a Tuesday conference call put together by the Orlando community activist group Organize Now, Henry said that 64 percent of the new jobs offered Floridians pay less than the living wage standard in Florida.

In 2004, Florida voters approved an increase in the minimum wage that, adjusted for CPI, now stands at $7.79 an hour (and goes to $7.93 in 2014). But with a economy still trying to recover to pre-2008 unemployment levels, some local communities have raised the wage to meet current economic conditions.

In Miami-Dade County, the living wage law requires contractors with the county to pay a minimum wage of $12.23 per hour if the company provides health benefits at a given level, or $14.01 without benefits. In Broward County, contractors with the county are required to pay a minimum wage of $11.46 per
hour if the company provides health benefits at a given level, or $12.95 without benefits.

But state lawmakers in Tallahassee tried to thwart those local ordinances, passing a bill (HR 655) in the Republican controlled House of Representatives that would preempt such living wage ordinances around the state. That bill failed to get through the Senate.

A study
published last year by Georgetown University's Center on Education and Workforce claimed that Florida is poised to become a state of mostly low-wage and/or low-skilled jobs.

"While Rick Scott has touted the pro-business atmosphere of the state and has made job growth a key component of his tenure as governor, median wages across the state continue to be among the lowest in the nation," said Stephanie Porta, the director with Organize Now.

Porta says that legislative remedies such as living wage ordinances are what will lead the state on the path to recovery while allowing workers to provide for the basic needs of their family. "Wages must increase across the board, starting with the minimum wage and extending to living wages."

A "good job" in the United States is defined as one that pays at least $18.50 an hour, or $37,000 a year, has employer-provided health insurance and a retirement plan, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a D.C.-based think tank.

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