Houston’s commercial and industrial sectors have been struggling to find new jobs since the recession.
A new report released Monday by the nonprofit American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) shows that the city’s lowest-paid workers have been hit particularly hard.
“Houston’s lowest paid workers, those who are employed by construction and commercial property owners, are experiencing significant job losses,” AIER said in a press release.
“The median hourly wage of these workers, which includes those employed by a construction company and a construction-related service, dropped from $8.25 to $7.80 between December 2016 and February 2017.”
The researchers say this decline in wage is likely due to low-wage construction workers leaving the city to work in other states, which could have made it more difficult for businesses to recruit and retain them.
For instance, in February 2017, the city had 1,800 vacancies, compared to more than 5,000 vacancies in January 2018.
As the researchers point out, this is a problem because the Houston workforce has historically been relatively young and growing.
In 2015, the population was 32.4 million, compared with 35.2 million in January 2017.
Despite this, AIER says, the median income of Houston’s lowest wage workers has remained flat over the past decade.
The median hourly earnings for construction workers, a group that includes construction workers employed by commercial property companies, were $8 per hour in January 2020, but they dropped to $6.70 in February 2018.
The same group of workers had a median wage of $7 per hour between December and February of this year, according to AIER.
These wage decreases have been particularly bad for low-income workers.
The researchers say that while the median household income of the lowest-wage workers in Houston fell by 7.6 percent between December 2020 and February 2021, the average household income for this group rose by 17.3 percent.
In addition, the researchers note that the wage decline for low wage workers is especially severe among Hispanics, who account for nearly half of Houstonians below the poverty level.
According to AIERS, this has also affected the quality of the Houston school system, as many of these low-skilled workers are not qualified for college or the work force.
AIER says that these wage trends are a problem for low wages, and it is important to take steps to improve the jobs market for these workers.
The AIER researchers note the city could also be working to prevent the type of displacement that has occurred over the years in Houston.
“While Houston has had an influx of construction workers over the last several years, there is still a substantial supply of construction laborers that could be used to address these wage and job trends,” they write.
“If Houston is not investing in this labor force, the jobs and opportunities that are available for low paid construction workers could be lost.
For instance, the low-paid construction workers in the city are among the most likely to face displacement in the future.”