As factory jobs have moved overseas, Western New Yorkers are making less and less money, according to a recent study from the University of Buffalo.
From 2004 to 2008, low-paying jobs -- those paying less than $30,000 per year -- increased 17 percent, while mid-wage jobs ($30,000 to $70,000) decreased 10 percent.
From the press release:
"These findings portray a new economic reality for Western New York that's in stark contrast to decades past, when the region paid some of the highest wages in the country," said Kathryn A. Foster, economics institute director. "It raises a host of questions about how to build and sustain economic security for Western New Yorkers."
During this same period, good-paying jobs -- above $70,000 -- have increased 6 percent. Those jobs comprise about 8 percent of the workforce, and the other two sectors are split evenly at 46 percent.
The federal poverty line for a single person is $10,830. For two people living together, it's $14,570. According to the report, Penn State’s Living Wage Calculator (meeting basic expenses), a single person should earn $18,300 in Buffalo. A single parent with a 5-year-old child needs $36,000 annually to meet basic needs.
A full-time, minimum wage job pays $15,000 annually. The median income in WNY is $31,080.
In 2008 dollars, a typical factory job from the 1970s might pay $60,000.
The report uses a fictional three-generation family to illustrate how the loss of good-paying factory work has forced both parents in a family of four to work and that family has less to fall back on.
But WNY is not alone. Low-paying service-sector jobs have been growing at about the same rate across the country, according to the report, though those jobs comprise just 43 percent of the work force.
As factories have closed, fewer and fewer workers enjoyed the benefits of organized labor:
"As both cause and reflection of the changing economy and wage structures, the percentage of workers represented by labor unions dropped steadily since the 1950s, from a national high of 35 percent to a current level of 12 percent. Unionization levels in the Buffalo Niagara region have mirrored national trends, particularly as manufacturing jobs have fallen. Yet the region’s unionization levels are consistently above national averages. Metro Buffalo’s 17-percent unionization rate in 2009 for private-sector workers was more than two times the 7-percent private-sector unionization rate for the nation."
Clearly, although the report concentrates on Buffalo as "Western New York," these issues do appear to be regionwide.
Full report available for download (pdf).