Five years after enduring a deep recession, the Illinois economy is once again generating jobs. But the current economic recovery poses a paradox: Where economic expansion has historically been accompanied by falling poverty rates, state expenditures on public benefits programs to help working families make ends meet have been growing. Because many of the jobs being created pay wages too low to support families, year-round workers are turning to public-support programs to make ends meet. This public support for year-round workers and their families is the hidden cost of low-wage
The economic boom of the 1990s is rightly noted for lifting the wages of the vast
majority of Illinois workers. But for all its force, the boom failed to reverse the long-term
decline in the spending power of low-income households, particularly those reliant on
minimum and near-minimum wage earners. Although the nominal value of the federal
minimum wage is at an all-time high of $5.15 per hour, failure to adjust it for inflation
has led real hourly wages of minimum and near-minimum wage workers to erode to a
level near their all- time low.