By Marianela Toledo | Florida Watchdog
MIAMI—The new unemployment statistics may be grim, but they don’t compare to the economic situations that most Americans believe themselves to be in.
According to the Pew Research Center, one in three Americans say they are low or lower middle class. The number represents 32 percent of respondents compared to just 25 percent in 2008.
Among the groups that most identified as poor are people under age 30, Hispanics and lower-income whites.
The same survey shows that 86 percent of respondents believe that stable employment is the most important requirement to be considered “middle class,” overshadowing homeownership and college education.
The survey was conducted with a sample of 2,508 adults from July 16-26 and has a margin of error of 2.5 percent.
To tackle the problem, officials in the Obama administration have been pushing hard for more participation in government job-training programs.
“We have a large population of unemployed who need to have more preparation,” Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis told Florida Watchdog last week at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
“It doesn’t mean you have to go get a four-year college degree. But they can do that by getting a smaller degree or credentials. That will take them six months or two years.
“But we are ready to give them information and services,” said Solis.
Merida Kelly, a young bilingual woman experienced in childcare, could only get a job as a waitress at the Miccosukee Casino in Miami when she came to the United States from her native Cuba.
Despite her continued job search and learning to speak English, she was not able to find a job for several years until she become a secretary at an important-export agency that deals primarily with Latin America.
Kevin Dowlie, originally from California, has been looking for work for more than two years in South Florida.
He has a college degree in soil and plant nutrition from the University of Berkeley and experience in the international sales market. He designed, constructed and managed import operations for a Fortune 100 company for a period of eight months, resulting in sales of more than $3 million.
Today, however, he works in condominium management, where the wages are low and barely enough to keep up with basic needs. He is looking for a new job.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, the unemployment rate of high school graduates was 31.1 percent in 2011, while the underemployment rate was 54.0 percent in 2011.
For college graduates, on the other hand, the unemployment rate was just under 9.4 percent in 2011, while the underemployment rate was 19.1 percent.
The underemployed among college graduates are mostly able to finance themselves through student loans, making them more reliable on rates and prices set by the federal government.
“With companies contracting, the economy will grow by a small 1.5 percent,” said Jorge Salazar Carrillo, professor of economics at Florida International University in Miami.
“The government should give credits for investments in order to reduce the tax burden or subsidies so they can create jobs. And make regulations much more flexible,” he told Florida Watchdog. “They have to consider policies that will ultimately put confidence in the economy.”
Contact Marianela Toledo at [email protected]
Florida Bureau Chief Yaël Ossowski translated this article.