Special Report

Cities Where Having a Job Doesn’t Keep You Out of Poverty

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

8. Laredo, TX
> Poverty rate of full-time workforce: 10.2%
> Official poverty rate: 31.5% (top 10%)
> June 2019 unemployment rate: 3.6% (bottom 50%)
> Avg. workweek: 38.8 hours (top 40%)

While nationwide having a full-time, year-round job makes one 4.9 times more likely to live below the poverty line than the general population, in Laredo, full-time workers are just 3.1 times as likely to not live in poverty.

One factor diminishing the advantage of having a full-time job in the struggle to stay out of poverty in Laredo is the abundance of low-wage jobs in the city. Located along the U.S.-Mexico border, Laredo is the nation’s busiest inland trade port in terms of the total value of goods imported and exported. Some 43.5% of workers are employed in the trade, transportation, and utilities sector — the largest share of any city. Workers in the sector earn an average wage of just $690 a week, $411 less than the average wage for all workers nationwide.

Source: renal / Getty Images

7. Las Cruces, NM
> Poverty rate of full-time workforce: 9.2%
> Official poverty rate: 27.9% (top 10%)
> June 2019 unemployment rate: 5.6% (top 10%)
> Avg. workweek: 37.2 hours (bottom 20%)

Las Cruces is one of the poorest metro areas in the country. The typical Las Cruces household earns $18,538 less a year than the U.S. median, and 27.9% of residents live in poverty — the fourth highest poverty rate of any city. Some 5.6% of the workforce is unemployed, far more than the 3.7% national unemployment rate.

Even those with a job in Las Cruces struggle more than the average U.S. worker to stay out of poverty. Among the 55,160 adults with a full-time, year-round job in Las Cruces, 9.2% live below the poverty line — more than three times the national working poverty rate.

Source: Eddie Maloney from North Las Vegas, USA / Wikimedia Commons

6. St. George, UT
> Poverty rate of full-time workforce: 4.7%
> Official poverty rate: 14.2% (bottom 40%)
> June 2019 unemployment rate: 3.1% (bottom 30%)
> Avg. workweek: 36.3 hours (bottom 10%)

While increased tourist activity in St. George has fueled economic growth in the metro area in recent years, low-wage jobs in the industry may be one reason why relatively many full-time workers in the metro area live in poverty. Some 8.0% of the St. George workforce is employed in leisure and hospitality, far more than the 5.5% national figure and one of the largest shares of any city. The average hospitality worker in St. George earns just $341 a week, less than one-third the $1,101 average earnings for all workers nationwide.

Overall, an estimated 4.7% of full-time, year-round workers in St. George live in poverty, higher than the 3.0% national working poverty rate and just about a third of the official poverty rate of 14.2% in the city.

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

5. San Angelo, TX
> Poverty rate of full-time workforce: 4.4%
> Official poverty rate: 12.9% (bottom 30%)
> June 2019 unemployment rate: 2.9% (bottom 20%)
> Avg. workweek: 41.0 hours (top 10%)

The average workweek among full- and part-time workers in San Angelo is 41.0 hours — 2.3 hours longer than the U.S. average and the 12th longest workweek of any city. Despite the long hours, some 4.4% of full-time, year-round workers in San Angelo live in poverty, higher than the 3.0% national working poverty rate.

One factor contributing to the large share of working poor in San Angelo may be the lack of high-paying job opportunities in the metro area. While San Angelo is adjacent to the Permian Basin and has one of the largest natural resources and mining sectors of any city, relatively few workers are employed in other high-wage industries. Just 8.3% of workers have jobs in professional and business services, for example, less than half the 22.0% national share.