Hour Workers Falling Way Behind – and That’s Not Right

brianoconnell

The pandemic has taken a huge toll on the financial health of U.S. hourly workers, so much so that it could take years before many of them get back on their feet.

The evidence comes from the second annual hourly worker’s report from Branch, a Minneapolis, Mn.-based personal financial platform.

The company surveyed 3,000 American hourly workers and the results showed the financial havoc the coronavirus and the resulting economic side have wrought on the lowest-paid members of the U.S. workforce.

The survey was comprised of workers in the food service, retail, and health care sectors. 

These are the grocery store clerks, fast-food cooks and cashiers and health care staffers who took care of America when we were hiding in our houses and fully dependent on the lowest level of the working class to make and deliver us food, show up to stock grocery store shelves, and administer critical aid to patients suffering from COVID-19 and other health care issues.

This from the Branch survey 

--- About 80% of hourly workers had less than $500 saved for an emergency and 52% had $0 saved, a 12% increase from last year’s study figures.

--- Even with stimulus checks, 76% had already delayed or missed a bill payment, with another 10% expecting to because of the virus.

--- The pandemic caused 33% of hourly employees to reevaluate the type of job they wanted.

--- Higher wages became even more important this year, increasing 14% with 77% of hourly workers citing it as their top work priority.

--- Basic living costs continued to rank among hourly workers’ top concerns, but shorter-term costs such as utility bills (62%) overtook last year’s top concern of home/rent affordability (60%).

--- 94% of hourly employees said accessing their pay before payday would be helpful, a 14% increase from 2019 (79.6%). The pandemic also impacted how they chose to pay, Branch reports. While debit cards (78%) continued to be hourly workers’ preferred payment method by far for the second year in a row, 76% of hourly workers said that they had increased their use of contactless and digital payments because of COVID-19.

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Things weren’t exactly rosy for hourly workers before the pandemic, but the crisis many wage earners are experiencing now is another issue entirely.

“Even before the pandemic, the vast majority of hourly workers had been living paycheck to paycheck and had very little saved,” says Atif Siddiqi, chief executive officer at Branch. “The decrease in hours and economic uncertainty have created even more challenges for hourly workers trying to establish financial stability.”

Given growing financial challenges, higher pay became even more important to hourly workers, with 77% citing higher wages as what they looked for most out of a workplace, a 14% increase from last year. A stable, predictable schedule (53%) and a positive work culture (36%) were the second and third most important factors respectively.

The pandemic also had a slight impact on hourly workers’ job searches, with 33% affirming that the pandemic had impacted the type of job they were seeking.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we need to take better financial care of our fellow Americans stuck on the lowest rungs of the U.S. economic ladder. We can start with a national minimum wage to $15 per hour or more and a one-time four-figure bonus paid out to all U.S.hourly workers. Yet even more needs to be done for some of the real heroes of the pandemic.

It’s really the least we could do for Americans who were there for us, and now need us to be there for them.