Work and Wages in Johnson County

Work should offer a pathway out of poverty by providing an income that is sufficient to sustain a household, meet financial obligations, and save for short-term emergencies and long-term goals. Local data tell us that most of the working-age poor are doing just that – working. However, they do not work enough hours or earn high enough wages to rise above the poverty level. Often the jobs these workers hold pay low wages, offer only part-time or temporary work, may have unpredictable schedules and likely do not offer paid benefits such as sick leave. Nor do they offer an opportunity for advancement. As a result, the poor are working hard but not getting ahead.

The majority of the poor work (All numbers are percentages)

*Adults 18-64 below the poverty level and without a disability that prevent work = 18,980

The Working Poor in Johnson County

Nearly 1 in 6 poor adults worked full time, year round in 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And yet, even with full-time wages, their income fell below the federal poverty level. More than 6 in 10 worked part-time or part year. Only 24% did not work. 

When Work Doesn’t Pay

According to data on wages paid by Johnson County employers, 1 in 9 jobs pay less than $10 an hour. Another 22% pay between $10 and $15 an hour. Together one-third of jobs in Johnson County pay less than $15 an hour, which is equivalent to $31,200 for full-time year-round work. Employment projections for the area suggest that the largest employment growth through 2022 will be predominantly low-wage occupations, such as sales clerk, restaurant worker, cashier, and personal care aide. Supporting a family and getting a secure foothold in life is challenging when job opportunities are concentrated in low-wage jobs.

Johnson County average hourly wages (All numbers are percentages)

**2016 Jobs = 368,200

Annual wages for full time year round work

$10 = $20,800

$15 = $31,200

$20 = $41,600

$30 = $62,400


1 person $12,060

2 persons$16,240

3 persons$20,420  

4 persons$24,600

Johnson County Facts:

If poverty was a city, it would be the 5th largest city in the county; and the fastest growing city.

37,000 people, or 6.5% of the population, live with income below the federal poverty level ($11,770 for one person; $20,090 for three).

1 in 4 Johnson County census tracts have poverty rates of 10% or higher.

The majority of poor are white and U.S. citizens.

The majority of poor adults have at least some college education.

3 in 4 poor adults work at least part time or part year.

1 in 9 jobs in Johnson County pays an average hourly wage less than $10.

Estimates suggest that it requires a full-time hourly wage of $28 to meet basic needs for a single parent and two children.

*U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 1-year estimate, 2014

**Mid-America Regional Council, EMSI 3Q 2015