Study finds sees need for livable-wage jobs

Some 79 percent of jobs in New Hampshire do not pay a wage sufficient for single-parent families with two children to provide basic needs such as housing, food, transportation, child care and health care, according to a new report.

The report, from the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire, also finds that Carroll County has the lowest percentage of livable-wage jobs, with only 13 percent of jobs paying a livable wage for single-parent families with two children.

“In this strained economic climate, it’s important to take an inventory of households’ ability to locate gainful employment in this state,” said report author Daphne Kenyon, an economist and policy fellow at the institute. Allison Churilla, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at UNH and a Carsey research assistant, was co-author of the report, which is an update of a similar report from 2001.

The report examines livable wages — the wage sufficient to pay for basic needs — by county and by seven family types. In every county in the state, well over half of all jobs pay a livable wage for a two-parent family with one child (both parents working) or for a single-person household. In contrast, no more than a quarter of all jobs in any county pay a livable wage for a single person with two young children, the report finds.

Livable wages vary by region, with rural Coos County having the lowest livable wages and Hillsborough and Rockingham counties, home to three of the state’s largest cities (Manchester and Nashua in Hillsborough and Portsmouth in Rockingham) having the highest livable wage. The lowest estimated livable wage is $8.49 for a two-parent family with one child (both parents working) in Coos County, while the highest livable wage estimate is $22.24 for a single person with two children in Rockingham County.

One in three New Hampshire workers is employed in one of 65 jobs — primarily service positions — in the state with a median hourly wage below $11.07, the estimated livable wage for a single-person household. To the extent New Hampshire continues in its transition from a production-based to a service-based economy, the proportion of livable wage jobs is expected to decline.

“It’s important to understand that just because people have jobs, they may not be doing OK,” said Kenyon, noting that workers not making a livable wage may go without basic needs like health insurance or may work more than 40 hours per week.

To download a copy of the report, visit www.carseyinstitute.unh.edu.