The good news: More people went back to work in the US in 2011. The bad news: Many of them took lower-paying jobs, leading to an increase in the number of working poor families that year, a new analysis shows. In 2011, there were 200,000 more working poor families—those struggling with poverty even though the parents are employed—than in 2010, according to the Working Poor Project's report. All in all, almost one-third of working families struggle near the poverty rate and may not be able to meet basic needs. That's an increase from 28% in 2007 and 31% in 2010.
Parents in these families most likely took service industry jobs—maids, restaurant servers, cashiers, janitors, cooks—that offer fewer hours, lower pay, fewer benefits, and less job security. A co-author of the report said the results were somewhat surprising, considering Census officials said last year that the poverty rate in the US had stabilized, Reuters reports. But what economic improvement we are seeing affects people in the US disproportionately, he explains. The top 20% of Americans got 48% of all income, while the bottom 20% got less than 5%. About 10.4 million US families, or 47.5 million people, now live near the poverty rate. (Read more poverty stories.)