Black workers lag in wage growth as Florida’s labor force grows more diverse and better-educated

Florida International University's just-released "State of Working Florida 2018" report concludes that the state's labor force has changed significantly since 2000 - getting more racially and ethnically diverse, better-educated and older - but that the benefits have reached some workers and not others. Black workers, especially, have lagged in employment and wage gains. LARA CERRI | Times (2016)
Florida International University's just-released "State of Working Florida 2018" report concludes that the state's labor force has changed significantly since 2000 - getting more racially and ethnically diverse, better-educated and older - but that the benefits have reached some workers and not others. Black workers, especially, have lagged in employment and wage gains. LARA CERRI | Times (2016)
Published August 31 2018
Updated August 31 2018

Not even one penny per year.

That’s the increase in hourly wages, adjusted for inflation, for the typical black worker in Florida from 2000 to 2017, according to a new study from Florida International University. Or, in other words: median hourly wages for black working Floridians went up 17 cents per hour over 18 years.

It’s a stark finding in FIU’s just-released "State of Working Florida 2018" report, which concluded that Florida’s labor force has changed significantly over the last couple of decades — getting more racially and ethnically diverse, better-educated and older — but that the benefits have reached some workers and not others.

"One of the key concerns that we bring up in this report is that there’s a considerable equity issue," the report’s author, Alí R. Bustamante, a senior research affiliate with FIU’s Center for Labor Research and Studies, said Friday.

Here are some key numbers:

A changing labor force

Florida’s workforce is evolving from one focused on physical labor to one that emphasizes specialized knowledge.

Since 2000, the shares of the overall labor force consisting of employees in manufacturing, construction, information, government, and trade, transportation and utilities "have all declined drastically," according to the report. Meanwhile, education, health services, professional and business services, and leisure and hospitality have all claimed bigger shares of the workforce.

Looking ahead, the report projects that education, health and professional and business services will be the largest drivers of new employment in Florida through 2025.

10.9 percent — Decline in the white share of Florida’s labor force, largely as the number of workers who are biracial or multiracial increase. That same number also is the percentage increase in the number of workers 55 and older. These trends are expected to continue. By 2041, Florida’s workers from 25 to 54 years old are expected to be 68 percent white, 32 percent non-white and 29.5 percent Hispanic.

1 in 3 — Number of Florida workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher (an increase of about 8 percent).

Uneven gains

Despite an 18.4 percent increase in productivity from 2000 to 2016, wage growth has been about a third as much and unevenly distributed.

$1.27 — Wage gain, adjusted for inflation, seen by the typical Florida worker earning the median, or midpoint, hourly wage from 2000 to 2017.

17 cents — Hourly gain seen by the typical black Florida worker for the same period. In inflation-adjusted dollars, median wages for black workers grew from $13.91 an hour in 2000 to $14.08 an hour in 2017. By comparison, median wages for white workers during the same time grew $1.36 an hour, from $17.82 to $19.18.

3.3 percent — 2017 unemployment rate for white workers.

6.8 percent — 2017 unemployment rate for black workers.

Potential investments

A shift toward a knowledge-driven economy requires investments in higher education, the FIU report concludes. It also suggests investments in alternative energy and raising the minimum wage.

$830.2 million — Estimated gain to the state from increasing enrollment at Florida public colleges and universities by 10 percent if the state, rather than students or families, picked up the cost of $579 million.

$172 million — Estimated economic impact of investing $100 million in solar power.

$29.5 billion — Estimated increase in earnings for 3.2 million workers if Florida raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour.

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Contact Richard Danielson at rdanielson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

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