Friday, April 4, 2014

BLS: Percentage of Hourly Workers Earning Minimum Wage or Less in 2013 Falls to 4.3%

    In the midst of the Obama administration's latest push to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) had released an analysis showing the the percentage of hourly workers earning at or below the minimum wage is down to 4.3%, or 3.3 million workers.  The decrease continues a trend of more than three decades, beginning with a high of 15% back in the early 1980s.  The numbers have occasionally spiked in reaction to economic conditions, most recently in the so-called Great Recession from 2008 to 2010, but then resumed the downward direction.

    Women's gains in this area have been even more dramatic, falling from around 22% in the early 1980s to about 5% in 2013.  The percentage for men during the same time went from about 10% to about 3%.
    The largest segment of the workforce earning minimum wage or below is in food preparation and serving (21.7%) whose wages are often supplemented by tips.  Other industries represented in the survey include service occupations, such as healthcare and protective services (11.3%), and sales and related occupations (6.1%).
    A related report from the BLS includes other facts about minimum wage workers:
  • Minimum wage workers tend to be young. Although workers under age 25 represented only about one-fifth of hourly paid workers, they made up about half of those paid the federal minimum wage or less.
  • About 5 percent of Black workers, 4 percent of White workers and Hispanic or Latino workers, and 3 percent of Asian workers earned the federal minimum wage or less. 
  • Among hourly paid workers age 16 and older, about 10 percent of those without a high school diploma earned the federal minimum wage or less, compared with about 4 percent of those who had a high school diploma (with no college) and about 2 percent of college graduates. 

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

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