Jason Webb is a sociology doctoral student residing in Toronto. This is his notebook on homelessness, inequality, citizenship, and urbanism.
Paid employment (ie. employees) declined by 46,000. Total employment (including self-employment) fell by 22,000. Yet the unemployment rate fell to 7% — its lowest level since late 2008.
Fewer people were working, yet the unemployment rate declined. What gives?
Especially during times of economic weakness, the official unemployment rate is abad measure of the state of the overall labour market, for familiar reasons: to qualify as officially unemployed, an individual has to be considered to be “participating” in the labour market. If you are not working, participation requires an active job search. A non-employed person who gives up looking, is no longer in the labour market — conveniently disappearing from the official jobloess tally.
While it’s no surprise that nearly 50 million Americans live below the poverty line, new statistics from the US Census show that almost 100 million others are counted as low-income citizens, making half of the population of America officially poor.
The latest figures out of the US Census Bureau show that in addition to the 49.1 million Americans who fall below the official poverty line, those that rake in enough to be between that level and the income equitable to double it fall into a new “low-income” category, which counts an additional 97.3 million people. Altogether, that clump of nearly 150 million Americans living in dire economic standing accounts for around 48 percent of the US population.
American officials have deemed the current poverty line to be at around $22,000 for a family of four, but the new category just about doubles that figure to $45,000 and places those that fall between the numbers as low-income. The Associated Press reports that for families that fit in that range, often half of the household income is spent on child-care costs and housing bills.
Taking into account medical, commuting and other living costs, the number of people living below 200 percent of the poverty level has been drastically changed and not for the better. Before those factors were taken into consideration, the US Census reported in September that only one-in-three Americans qualified as poor or low-income.
As RT reported earlier this year, the number of Americans living below half, or 50 percent of the poverty level, is equally as alarming. Around 20.5 million Americans — or 6.7 percent — have personal incomes that place them in that bracket, which equates to annual incomes of less than $5,570 for an individual or $11,157 for a family of four. In Washington DC, which is part of the wealthiest metropolitan region per-capital in the country, one-in-ten residents are grouped into that category.
Don’t fret though. It isn’t all doom and gloom! Some Americans are in fact seeing a turn for the better. While half of the country might be considered poor now, some citizens recently saw pay raises in the last year that were to the tune of 40 percent. Unfortunately, they probably didn’t necessarily need that bump. According to the Guardian, the top CEOs in America saw pay hikes between 27 and 40 percent last year. The paper adds that the highest paid exec in the US racked up more than $145.2 million last year, and the median value of their profits on stock options jumped 70 percent.
Ed Broadbent on Income Inequality
The federal government launched the National Homelessness Initiative in 1999, after a significant rise in homelessness. This initiative allocated more than $1-billion to funding solutions such as community programs and beds in shelters. Programs such as these play an important role, but have not measurably reduced the number of homeless people country-wide. For that reason, the current government has sought evidence on the cost-effectiveness of alternative options, such as ‘Housing First.’
Trailer for Home Safe Toronto, a documentary on family homelessness.