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The State of Working Oregon

News Release
August 6, 1998

The Oregon Center for Public Policy, a Silverton-based public policy research organization, released data this Labor Day weekend on the status of Oregon's working families. The data comes from "The State of Working America 1998-99," a study by the Washington, D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute (EPI), released Sunday. The data shows that the typical Oregonians' wages and income have declined while the gap between Oregon's highest income families and Oregon's lowest income families has grown.

The study's key findings on the status of Oregon's working families are:

Median hourly wage trends assess the wage trend of a typical worker. The typical Oregon worker's wages decreased from 1989 to 1997. By 1997, the typical (median) worker in Oregon earned $1.01 less per hour than in 1989.

Underemployment for 18 to 35 year old Oregon women with less than a high school degree is 28.4 percent. Underemployment for 18 to 35 year old Oregon women with a high school degree is 16.1 percent. Underemployment adds discouraged job seekers and the marginally employed (persons working part-time involuntarily and those who sought work in the past year but are not currently seeking work for other reasons such as the lack of child care) to the unemployed.

Charles Sheketoff, Executive Director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy offered the following comments on these findings.

Sheketoff noted that the underemployment figure was much lower for women with a high school degree. "The vast majority of families on public assistance are headed by single mothers. It should be the policy of every human services agency to make sure that there are no barriers between these mothers and their diplomas or their GEDs."

"The education of welfare recipients can play an important role in increasing their prospects for success in the labor market. Underemployment for women with a high school degree is 7.6 percent, about half the rate of underemployment for women with less than a high school degree (14.9 percent)."

The Oregon Center for Public Policy is a Silverton-based, nonpartisan research group that analyzes budget and tax issues and government programs, and their impacts on low to moderate income Oregonians.

The Economic Policy Institute is a nonprofit, non-partisan economic think tank based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1986, EPI seeks to widen the debate about policies to achieve healthy economic growth, prosperity and opportunity in the United States. Institute founders include Lester Thurow, Robert Reich, Ray Marshall, Barry Bluestone, and EPI president Jeff Faux. To order copies of The State of Working America 1998-99, contact EPI at 1-800-EPI-4844. The executive summary and introduction to this report will be available on-line September 6th by visiting EPI's World Wide Web site at http://www.epinet.org

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