Fewer jobless per home

Springfield News Sun - May 20, 2012

Randy Tucker

But doubled-up family living is still at a record high in Ohio

The Great Recession forced throngs of Ohioans to double up with family and friends, helping to fuel a dramatic increase in the number of multi-generational households.

But as their economic standing improves, many of the so-called “boomerang generation’’ may strike out on their own once again, fueling demand for housing and consumer goods and driving economic growth, experts say.

A recent statewide report suggests more families are beginning to send members out into the workplace, although the number of doubled-up families is still at an all-time high.

The percentage of U.S. households with at least one jobless family member dropped from a peak of 12.4 percent in 2010 to 11.5 percent in 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, the total number of households in that category fell from 9.7 million in 2010 — the highest figure since the bureau began tracking such households — to 9 million last year.

The decline corresponds with overall unemployment statistics that show a downward trend in joblessness over the past year both nationally and in Ohio, where the unemployment rate fell to 7.4 percent in April from 7.5 percent in the previous month, the state jobs department reported last week.

Amy Hanauer, founder of the Cleveland-based think tank Policy Matters Ohio, noted that part of the drop in unemployment can be attributed to people leaving the labor force to go back to school, retire or just take a break from their discouraging job searches.

“But to the extent that you’re finding that households have more people employed, that is a great thing for the economy,” Hanauer said. “It means that the household is going to have an easier time meeting their expenses.”

That frees up resources for other types of consumption spending as the cost of basic necessities such as food, insurance and utilities is spread across more breadwinners, she said.

It also means people have more choices about where to live, said Dave Dickerson of the Gem Real Estate Group in Dayton.

“Usually, the first step for somebody moving out from a congregate type of living environment is not to purchase, but to rent,” said Dickerson, whose company’s latest rental market survey showed a decrease in vacancies in the local area. “These people are trying to re-establish their credit, their base and their confidence.

“If they can sign a one-year lease, that gives them a lot more flexibility than making the financial commitment to purchase,” he added.

Still, even though more households may be bouncing back from unemployment, not everyone can afford to move — even with a new job.

Work does not necessarily eliminate the reliance on other people, said Hanauer, noting that many of the new jobs created in the wake of the recession are in low-wage service and sales sectors.

According to a recent survey from Policy Matters, the vast majority of respondents, 92 percent, were employed — but 80 percent earned $30,000 or less and had difficulty affording essentials.

Three in five could not get health care through either their employers or Medicaid. More than one in five said they often had to skip meals.

The problem was most acute for younger workers, many of whom were forced to move back home with their parents, shouldering student-loan debt and bleak job prospects.

“If people are doubling-up and not moving out of their parents’ home, it may be a good thing for the family, but it’s probably not by choice,” Hanauer said. That’s one of the main reasons the number of doubled-up households remains elevated even as the jobs picture improves, she said.

The Census Bureau defines doubled-up households as those with at least “one person 18 or older who isn’t enrolled in school and isn’t the householder, spouse or cohabiting partner of the householder.”

Last year, 21.8 million, or 18.3 percent of all households, were doubled up, according to Census data. By comparison, 9.7 million, or 17 percent of all households, were doubled-up at the start of the recession.

Individually, 61.7 million adults, or 27.7 percent, were doubled up in 2007, rising to 69.2 million, or 30.0 percent, in 2011.

Young adults were especially hard-hit, with 5.9 million people ages 25 to 34 living in their parents’ household in 2011, up from 4.7 million before the recession.

Fewer jobless per home

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