In 2011, More Workers Made Below the Minimum Wage Than Those Actually Earning It

Thoroughly reviewed Bureau of Labor Statistics data from last year indicate that, in the United States, there are currently more workers earning below the minimum wage than there are workers actually making the minimum wage itself.

The data, Characteristics of Minimum Wage Workers: 2011, found that 2.2 million workers make below the minimum wage compared to 1.7 million who make the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Other interesting (i.e. depressing) data points include:

By major occupational group, the highest proportion of hourly-paid workers earning at or below the Federal minimum wage was in service occupations, at 13 percent. About 6 in 10 workers earning the minimum wage or less in 2011 were employed in service occupations, mostly in food preparation and serving related jobs.

The industry with the highest proportion of workers with hourly wages at or below the Federal minimum wage was leisure and hospitality (22 percent). About one-half of all workers paid at or below the Federal minimum wage were employed in this industry, primarily in restaurants and other food services. For many of these workers, tips and commissions supplement the hourly wages received.

The proportion of hourly-paid workers earning the prevailing Federal minimum wage or less declined from 6.0 percent in 2010 to 5.2 percent in 2011. This remains well below the figure of 13.4 percent in 1979, when data were first collected on a regular basis.

Interestingly, the three states with the highest proportion of workers being paid at or below the minimum wage were “Right-to-Work” states. In 2011, Texas, Georgia, and Mississippi all had between 8 and 10 percent of workers in this category.

A summary tackling this data appeared on Democratic Underground.

Despite the election being billed as a choice between two different visions of our nation’s economic future, the minimum wage has been a side note to drastic political theatrics. President Obama has hinted at raising the minimum wage to near $10 but not delivered on the promise while his challenger, Mitt Romney, has claimed “America deserves better” than low paying jobs. Unless, of course, you worked the Republican Nation Convention as a janitor, where you would have earned less than minimum wage.

In a study released last month, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that if the minimum wage was raised to $9.80 an hour it would generate nearly $25 billion in consumer spending and create 100,000 full time jobs.

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