After years of decline and stagnation, the median wage in Louisiana rose 39 cents from 2012 to 2014 to $15.63 an hour, and Louisiana added 54,000 jobs over that time. More Louisianans had jobs than ever before, and wages for women gained ground on their male counterparts.
Unfortunately, that is where the good news ends.
Most Louisianans are still getting paid less than they were before the Great Recession. Only workers at the top of the pay scale have seen their wages fully recover. And the pay gap between black and white workers is bigger than it was two years ago, as is the gap between the wealthiest and everyone else.
Details about these and other wage trends are included in State of Working Louisiana 2015, a new report from the Louisiana Budget Project that looks at how Louisiana’s economy is performing for average workers.
“This report has some encouraging news, but it also shows us how far we have to go to have an economy that works for everyone,” LBP Director Jan Moller said. “As we take a weekend to honor workers in Louisiana, policymakers should remember that growing the middle class requires jobs that pay enough to support a family.”
While parts of south Louisiana saw wages increase in the two-year period, workers in north Louisiana have seen their income decline. Recent drops in the price of oil suggest wages in south Louisiana could be in for a downturn as well.
The pay for most Louisiana workers has not kept pace with increased productivity, which contributes to widening inequality. This decades-long trend in Louisiana and elsewhere should concern anyone who cares about the American Dream. As wages fail to keep up with the rising cost of quality child care and higher education, it is becoming harder for families to invest in their children’s future.
“This report shows why focusing on economic growth by itself isn’t enough,” Moller said. “We have to do more to ensure workers and their families share in the gains if we want to protect economic opportunity for all.”