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SHABAZZ: There's a lot of good news in Indiana's jobs numbers

September 10, 2016

Shabazz
Indiana got some pretty good news recently on the jobs front.

The state’s economy added more than 11,000 jobs in July and more Hoosiers were working than ever before. Unemployment is at 4.6 percent and the state’s workforce participation rate is 65.4 percent—the national average is 62.8 percent.

Good news, right? Not for everyone, especially critics.

Despite these little things called facts, the criticism is that, while jobs are being created, they are not the “good-paying” jobs Hoosiers need. They point out the fact that Indiana’s per capita income is 38th in the nation at slightly less than $41,000 annually. Of course, Indiana also ranks fifth in the nation for cheapest states in which to live.

By the way, the state with the highest per capita income was Connecticut ($67,000), which was also ranked by CNBC as the second-most expensive state to live in. So there’s a bit of a tradeoff.

But all this got me to thinking: What exactly is a “good-paying” job?

Since “good” is a relative term, what’s good for me, my wife and dog, might not be good for my brother, his wife and eight kids. So I decided anything that keeps a roof over your head and food on your table is good, especially considering the alternative. Of course, it helps if you do your part by getting an education, being able to pass a drug test, waiting until you’re married to have kids, and all those things that help keep you out of poverty. But we’re not talking about personal responsibility; we’re talking about jobs that pay well.

According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a single adult in Indiana with two kids needs to make nearly $51,000 before taxes to have a “living wage.” Of course, that depends on where you live (e.g., the cost of living in Richmond is 9 percent cheaper than in Indianapolis), how much debt you have, whether you rent or own, etc.

But we’ll stick with that number for the sake of argument. And what’s even more interesting: Two adults with two children with only one adult working need make only $46,000 before taxes. See, there’s something to be said for a responsible, two-parent household.But I digress.

Even a single parent can make it. Let’s say you got a job in manufacturing, which is on a roll these days. My friends over at the Indiana Manufacturing Association tell me that, in September 2015, the average weekly wage in manufacturing was $1,058. So let’s do a little math here: $1,058 x 52 weeks = $55,016.

So there are tons of jobs in just one industry with an average salary (nine months ago) that would not only provide a single parent with two kids a “living wage,” but they would also have a little extra to save or take a family vacation. Of course, this assumes you’re qualified for the job in the first place—having a good education would help, too.

So in a world of near-full employment, the jobs are there. The bigger question is, where is the workforce?•

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Shabazz is an attorney, radio talk show host and political commentator, college professor and stand-up comedian. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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