Quality Jobs

Desired Trend


Current Trend

Baseline (2010): 39.7%
Current (2016): 39.9%

Theme Prosperous


Percent of jobs with a median wage higher than self-sufficiency wage for a 1 adult, 1 child household

Why is it Important?

Quality jobs are those that provide sufficient wages, benefits, job security, and advancement opportunities to enable workers to meet their daily needs. Due to the complex definition of quality jobs, this performance indicator uses a simplified definition that focuses solely on the wage of jobs. It does not consider benefits, job security, or advancement opportunities. Specifically, quality jobs are those with a living wage, allowing workers to provide a minimum standard of living for their families without relying on government assistance. This indicator uses the living wage for a 1 adult, 1 child family as the threshold1, which in the St. Louis region is $21.23 per hour, or $44,150 per year as of 2016.2

How are we Doing?

About 40 percent of jobs in the St. Louis MSA have a median wage that can support a 1 adult, 1 child household. The percent of quality jobs was about the same in 2010. The percentage has fluctuated some over the last 15 years but has hovered around 38 to 40 percent of jobs. The low was 35.5 percent in 2005, and the high was 40.1 percent in 2008. The increase in the percentage of quality jobs during the recession is coupled with an increase in unemployment/decrease in the total number of jobs.

As of 2016, the occupations with the largest number of employees in the St. Louis region that do not earn sufficient wages include retail salespersons (median wage of $11.08 per hour), food preparation and serving workers ($9.04), secretaries and administrative assistants ($16.62), cashiers ($9.62), customer service representatives ($16.41), and waiters and waitresses ($9.01).

In all 50 of the most populous U.S. regions, less than half of jobs have a median wage that is less than what is considered a living wage for that region. The Where We Stand tables show that St. Louis ranks relatively compared to the peer regions and has the highest proportion of living wage jobs among the Midwest peers. This is part due to the low cost of living in the region. St. Louis has the 4th lowest living wage requirement among the peers.

Geographic Level

St. Louis Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). View map.


1The living wage threshold for this indicator comes from the Living Wage Calculator, which provides an estimate of the wage needed to support families of various sizes for the St. Louis MSA. A 1 adult, 1 child family is used as a benchmark for this analysis because families with two working adults and children require a lower wage, while families with two adults and children but only one worker require similar or higher wages to support their families. Therefore, the 1 adult, 1 child benchmark represents a mid-level standard for families. 

2This indicator uses the estimated median annual wage by occupation in the St. Louis region. The estimate is based on survey responses collected over a three year cycle. The wages for part-time employees who are paid hourly are over counted by this estimate because the survey does not record the number of hours worked and instead assumes a 2,080 hour per year work schedule. The wages for part-time employees who are paid a salary are represented accurately by this estimate. Caution should be used when analyzing OES wage data in time-series analyses due to variations in survey procedures and changes in occupational classification systems.

3 National Employment Law Project, The Low-Wage Recovery and Growing Inequality, August 2012; accessed on 15 January 2014 at http://www.nelp.org/index.php/content/content_about_us/tracking_the_recovery_after_the_great_recession

Data Sources

Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics and Living Wage Calculator, Poverty in America