Neighborhood in poverty in the U.S

Unemployment Lowers while Poverty at Record Highs in St. Louis

House in disrepair in a St. Louis neighborhood with Gateway Arch in background.
House in disrepair in a St. Louis neighborhood with Gateway Arch in background.

Many of us want to know the reasons why unemployment can hover a little over 3 percent while poverty continues to increase in St. Louis and across the nation. Here are a few reasons why:

  • The quality of jobs. Even if there are a lot of jobs available, they may not be good jobs. Low-wage jobs, part-time jobs, and jobs without benefits can all contribute to poverty, even if they don’t technically count as unemployment.
  • The cost of living. The cost of living can also affect poverty, even if unemployment is low. If the cost of housing, food, healthcare, and other necessities goes up, people may still be considered poor even if they have a job.
  • Inequality. When the gap between the rich and the poor widens, it can lead to an increase in poverty, even if unemployment is low. This is because the rich tend to get richer, while the poor tend to stay poor or get poorer.
  • Government policies. Government policies can also affect poverty, even if unemployment is low. For example, cuts to social programs or tax breaks for the wealthy can make it harder for people to escape poverty.
Protest signs at homeless encampment at St. Louis City Hall 2023 during the heat wave.
Protest signs at homeless encampment at St. Louis City Hall 2023 during the heat wave.

It is important to note that there is no single cause of poverty, and the reasons why it can increase even when unemployment is low are complex and interrelated.

Here are some specific examples of how these factors can play out:

  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, many low-wage workers lost their jobs, even though the overall unemployment rate remained relatively low. This is because many of these jobs were in the service sector, which was hard hit by the pandemic.
  • With a high cost of living, even people with good jobs may struggle to make ends meet. This is especially true for people who have to pay for childcare, housing, and healthcare.
  • When the rich get richer, the poor often get poorer. This is because the rich tend to have more political power and influence, and they can use this power to benefit themselves at the expense of the poor.
  • Government policies can also make it harder for people to escape poverty. For example, cuts to social programs can make it harder for people to afford food, housing, and healthcare.

It is important to remember that poverty is a complex issue with no easy solutions. However, by understanding the factors that contribute to poverty, we can work to develop policies and programs that help to reduce it.