Housekeeping cost of $10.99 per hour is about what the average worker in California, Hawaii, or New York makes, but it’s still a lot less than the $12.50 hourly wage of a maid in New York.
Most of the maids in this article are middle-aged women, with the oldest at 78 and the youngest at 17.
A large percentage of the people in this group are working in the service sector, which makes the difference between staying on top of the housekeeping tab and having to buy new clothes.
A few are part-time.
“We’re seeing more and more people working in housekeeping who are not necessarily full-time housekeepers,” said Laura Loughlin, a research analyst with the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division.
“It’s getting cheaper, but there are still people who are looking to get back into the workforce.”
The low-wage sector includes home care, cleaning, and housekeeping as well as many small businesses that don’t use their workers’ full time hours, such as grocery stores, coffee shops, and laundromats.
A 2014 study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the labor supply chain included about 7 million people.
While wages have been rising for most of this decade, the rise in the cost of goods has been more dramatic for the service and retail sectors, which have been especially hard hit by the recession.
The average hourly wage in these industries has been rising since 2007, but for service and small businesses it has been slower than for larger employers, the study found.
For example, the median wage for a full-timing household worker in the Service Industry in 2016 was $20.89 an hour, but the median hourly wage for an equivalent full-timer in the Retail Industry was $16.84 an hour.
(The median hourly earnings for a part-timer in the Manufacturing Industry was only $10 an hour.)
Service industry workers, however, still make the median pay in 2016 $16,846 a year more than they did a decade ago.
The median annual salary in the Food and Beverage industry was $42,988 in 2016, up about 7 percent from the year before.
(For a full list of hourly wage data, see our wage index.)
The low cost of imported goods, combined with a slow pace of inflation, means that workers are getting the lower end of the wage scale, Loughin said.
“There’s less room for wages to rise and wages to fall, and you’ve got to pay more for the goods you buy,” Loughins said.
The lack of wages has also meant that some workers are choosing to shift to cheaper, more reliable food imports, such the Thai food that is being imported from Thailand to keep the food supply chain moving.
“The whole thing about the food chain is that it’s about getting the right ingredients, getting the product to the right people at the right time, and being able to deliver it to the customers that they want,” Laughlin said.
As the economy recovers from the recession, it’s unlikely that wages will be as high as they were during the crisis.
The recent increase in the minimum wage, the repeal of the Johnson Amendment, and the expiration of the tax credit for childcare leave are all expected to slow wage growth.
That could make it harder for workers to find jobs, which could hurt wages.
“If you’re a low-paid person, it would be even more difficult to find work,” Laughan said.
Even if a worker doesn’t get laid off or get laid over, she said, they might have to take on more debt to maintain the lifestyle they’ve established.
“You don’t have that luxury of having a stable job, so you might have more debt,” Laffer said.
That’s also why some workers, like the ones who live in New Jersey, are taking out loans to pay for a down payment on a home or apartment.
If their house is worth less than what they’ve already borrowed to buy, they can sell their home and borrow money from friends, neighbors, or lenders.
That way, they’re still on the hook to pay off their debt, but they’re paying it off faster.
“These are people who can’t afford to go back to their jobs,” Laugins said, “so they have to put the money aside and just get a little bit more money in their pocket.”