Patchwork of Paychecks: Washington

There are not enough jobs to go around in Washington. There are 386,000 job seekers, but only about 140,000 total job openings. Of those, 58 percent pay a living wage for a single adult and only 22 percent pay enough for a single adult with two children to make ends meet. This means there are five job seekers for every job opening that pays a living wage for a single adult and 12 job seekers for every job opening that pays a living wage for a single adult with two children.

Additionally, women and people of color in Washington are more likely to work part-time than are workers overall. While just over 25 percent of all workers reported working part-time, 40 percent of black workers and 36 percent of female workers reported working fewer than 40 hours per week.

Testimonial: TRISTAN O’HART | SEATAC, WA

My name is Tristan, and I have lived in Washington state for about eight years. I used to be homeless, so in some ways my life is a lot better than it used to be. But, when my partner and I still struggle to pay the bills and I can’t find full-time work, it’s still really tough.

I earn $12 an hour working part-time as a barista and part-time at a youth training program on a farm. I feel lucky that I actually really enjoy both jobs, but neither one can offer me full-time hours or the potential to really move up the ladder. I’ll age out of the youth training program when I turn 26. In theory, I could get another job at a farm when that happens, but farm work doesn’t exactly pay well, either.

My partner works full-time, but we still struggle to pay the bills. We always make sure to pay rent, but end up cutting back on other things like internet or phone bills, or even the amount that we buy at the grocery store. I can sometimes bring home food from my job at the farm, but during the winter that’s not really an option. While rent is cheaper where we live now, it’s still not that cheap, and we can no longer walk most places – so it can cost more for transportation, too.

I’d love to have full-time work someday. Right now there still aren’t a lot of workplaces that are fully open and accepting of someone who is trans, and neither of my current jobs will ever be full-time. So, we live paycheck-to-paycheck, scraping by and never saving anything for the future, and hoping that I don’t get sick or hurt. I’m still in limbo on health insurance and both of my jobs require manual labor.

Of course, I don’t have much time to think about the future anyway, with “clopening” shifts that keep me from getting much sleep and affect even short-term planning. I haven’t been able to take a vacation since I was 17, so that – and getting more sleep – are really my big dreams, right now.

I just wish more people realized how common it is to have to work multiple part-time jobs and still scrape by. It’s not that millennials like me are lazy – it’s just not as easy as people think it is.

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