Families’ economic security is slowly improving: The labor market is adding jobs and household wealth is gradually increasing. But families continue to struggle given the depth of the past recession and the slow pace of improvements during the economic recovery.
Policymakers acted decisively in the past with extended unemployment insurance benefits, payroll tax cuts, and infrastructure investments when they felt a sense of urgency about helping America’s middle class. But they should still feel that sense of urgency since comparatively high unemployment rates—especially among vulnerable population groups—high poverty rates, a depressed housing market, and large household debt burdens have put America’s middle class in an unacceptably insecure position.
Making them more secure will take comprehensive and targeted policy. Sustained and faster job creation should be policymakers’ top concern, especially for vulnerable groups such as African Americans, young labor force participants, and people without a high school degree. Also required are income supports through, for instance, extended unemployment insurance benefits, higher minimum wages, and more opportunities for employees to join a union.
SOURCE Economic Snapshot for May 2012.