Sarah Miller on paying attention to the worker-centered voice

Thought leaders share ideas with WorkingNation Overheard at JFF Horizons 2023

Worker Voices – a new report from the U.S. Federal Reserve System looks at how job seekers and workers in lower-wage roles navigated the labor market throughout the pandemic.

There was a lot of discussion in the national narrative around unemployment benefits and stimulus checks that were issued during the pandemic, says Sarah Miller, principal adviser, Center for Workforce and Economic Opportunity, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

WorkingNation sat down with Miller at JFF Horizons in New Orleans.

She says, despite some public opinion, a survey of low-wage workers indicated they still wanted to fully engage in the workforce even though they had received these funds.

Miller also notes there was dissonance in the discussion with the workers around how they are talked about, how they feel valued, and how they experience the labor market,

She says, “We had this conversation with a subset of our sample after the research was completed. We did the analysis to ask them questions around whether our findings were accurate and reflective of their experiences and how they’d like us to refer to them.”

Miller continues, “What are the words that we should use when we’re talking about the essential workforce – those potentially marginalized in the labor market? A lot of them took umbrage with the term ‘essential worker.’ They don’t feel like they’ve been treated with the essential nature that they provide to the economy. They’re essential to the business, but they’re not necessarily essential as a person in that role.”

“I hope employers really understand the very nuanced picture that job quality means to all of these workers,” says Miller. “They have different needs. They want to be seen as individuals. While wages are absolutely a part of the conversation, there is a slew of non-compensation factors that are not being met, at least from the perspectives of these participants.”

Learn more Workers Voices here.

Learn more about the Center for Workforce and Economic Opportunity, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.