Salary increases not matching rising inflation in South Florida

Rent costs climb 30% in Palm Beach County
Posted at 11:03 AM, Feb 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-23 19:05:53-05

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — You feel it at the gas pump, grocery store and when you pay your bills each month.

Inflation has more than quadrupled in the last year. But are salaries keeping up with the rising cost of living?  

"My rent is more than 50 percent of my salary, so I've had to cut everywhere I can," said Christine White. "I've been outpriced."  

Job hunting on her laptop in her beach-themed apartment in southern Palm Beach County, White said by the end of the month she has to leave her little piece of paradise behind.  

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"To renew [my lease], that $1,600 is going to jump to $2,150, and there's no way that I can do that," said White about her monthly rent cost.  

Christine White, southern Palm Beach County resident
Christine White is among the many residents struggling to find a place to live amid rising housing costs.

She's trying to find a new job that can help her afford to stay here.  

"They were offering $55,000 as a top salary for someone with a master's degree, and I said, '[I] can't take that,'" White said.  

Even at that rate, she would be spending 47 percent of her annual salary to stay in her apartment. Down to the wire, it's either find a cheaper place to live or a higher-paying job.  

"I've spent nights and nights crying and don't know how I'm going to make it one day to the next," White said.  

Nationally, wage growth reached an all-time high of 15.3% in April of last year, but with inflation rapidly climbing many jobs haven't kept up.  

RELATED: What's the biggest cause of rising inflation? It's complicated.

According to the most recent state data from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, in the last three years, on average, bus drivers in the state saw a 7% increase in wages, firefighters experienced a 5% increase and social workers' annual pay went up 1.4%.

15.3 wage growth in the U.S.
Wages rose 15.3% in the U.S. but inflation is cutting into those gains substantially.

Meanwhile, the average salaries for teachers, nurses and waiters went up more than 12%, depending on the profession.

However, inflation has increased 7.8%, and rent costs have climbed to 30% and higher in parts of Palm Beach County.  

"That's probably our largest concern," said Tom Veenstra, the vice president of administration at CareerSource of Palm Beach County.  

CareerSource connects employers with skilled workers and helps people find better jobs.  

According to CareerSource, there are 38,564 job openings in Palm Beach County compared to just over 25,000 people unemployed. For the sixth consecutive month, there are more jobs available than unemployed people.

RELATED: Inflation could be driving up how much you pay for car insurance

"Employers have really had to step up their game to get the talent that they want," added Veenstra.  

Tom Veenstra, CareerSource Palm Beach County
Tom Veenstra says Palm Beach County still has more job openings than unemployed people.

That means paying more, flexible hours and remote work. 

Entry-level jobs in Palm Beach County have already increased from $9 to $11 per hour before COVID-19 to $14 to $16 per hour, which ironically also contributes to inflation.  

"I want to be able to make a decent wage and pay my rent," White said.  

Unable to find a new apartment she can afford, White has put in her resignation at work. What's next is uncertain for her. 

"I've had to rely on my kids for emotional support, which it's not supposed to be that way," White said. "It's supposed to be the other way around."

She has the following message to employers:  

"Look at the cost of living. Where are you spending that could be put towards employee compensation?" added White.  

There are weekly hiring events you can find out about on CareerSource Palm Beach County's website. There you can also find training opportunities and high-demand jobs.