Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., says not all Americans are reaping the benefits of the booming economy.
"When anybody is saying the economy is going great ... there's a frustration that says, 'Well, the economy's good for who?'" the freshman congresswoman said in an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" on Sunday.
The economy added 312,000 jobs in December, blowing away expectations and capping off a year of record-low unemployment rates.
"I don't think that [low unemployment] tells the whole story," Ocasio-Cortez said. "When you can't provide for your kids working a full-time job, working two full-time jobs, when you can't have health care; that is not dignified."
While job growth has been steadily increasing, wage growth has not kept up. During each of the first 11 months of 2018, average hourly wages grew less than 1 percent year over year after adjusting for inflation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In December, wages rose 3.2 percent year over year for the best growth since April 2009, sparking hope for higher wages in the new year. The December number, however, has yet to be adjusted for inflation.
The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour has not increased since 2009, leaving states and cities to enact change on the local level. Nineteen states and even more cities raised their minimum wage in the new year, including Ocasio-Cortez's New York, which now has a minimum wage of $15 an hour.
With their newfound control of the chamber, House Democrats are expected to push for a $15 federal minimum wage even though Republicans, who still have a majority in the Senate, are unlikely to support the measure. Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., will likely lead the effort as chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. "The reality is many Americans are still struggling," Scott said in a statement reacting to December's jobs report. "Wages have remained largely stagnant — particularly for low-wage earners."
Likewise, the sectors expected to add the most new positions going forward have some of the lowest salaries, such as fast food, home health aides and janitors.
Before launching her bid for Congress, Ocasio-Cortez worked as a waitress and bartender with student debt and no health insurance. Working those jobs, "I really understood the frustration that working people had across the political spectrum," she said.