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A Tight Labor Market Could Quell Poverty, but Eligibility Rules Threaten Those Gains

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The United States is enjoying a remarkable and durable period of tight labor markets. Currently at 3.6 percent, the unemployment rate has been below 4 percent for 18 months. Employers added 209,000 new jobs to the labor market last month, marking the 30th straight month of job growth. The economy is generating opportunity for many workers, including people who have long been on the margins of the work world.

More than one million additional people with disabilities found jobs between 2021 to 2022; joblessness among people without a high school diploma has been well-below its historical average for 17 months; and although returning citizens remain disadvantaged as job seekers,   employers are more open to hiring people with criminal records than they have been for some time.   In response to plummeting unemployment, employers such as Target have raised starting wages to $15 per hour or higher, or now offer health care benefits, paid time off, and stable scheduling, to woo employees to open positions at lower rungs of the earnings ladder.  Even McDonald’s, once the home of the…

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