Latest from The Spokesman-Review
Average wages grew in 36 of Idaho’s 44 counties in 2013, the Idaho Department of Labor reports, although the average wage in the state remained at just 75.6 percent of the national average. That was an improvement from 2012, when Idaho’s average wage was 74.4 percent of the national average.
Ada County’s average wage of $43,937 was above the state average of $37,800, and was 87.9 percent of the national average. Canyon County, at $33,230, was below the state average and 66.4 percent of the national average. Kootenai County, at $34,834, was 69.7 percent of the national average. You can see the Department of Labor’s full report, based on new estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, online here, including breakdowns for all 44 counties.
A new report on pay disparities finds that women and minorities in Idaho who work full-time are far less likely to earn a living wage than the population as a whole, and though such disparities also show up nationwide, they’re more pronounced in Idaho. The report “Equity in the Balance,” which examined pay disparities in 10 states including Idaho, found that for single adults in Idaho working full-time, just 51 percent make a living wage, which for Idaho was calculated at $14.57 an hour, enough to cover basics including food, housing, transportation and child care. For women, that percentage fell to 43 percent; for Latinos, 31 percent; for people of color, 39 percent; and for Native Americans, 37 percent. Even bigger disparities were found for households with children.
Nationally, the study estimated that 61 percent of all workers earn a living wage, with the number falling to 57 percent for women, 42 percent for Latinos, 52 percent for people of color and 50 percent for Native Americans.
“It’s more pronounced in Idaho,” said Ben Henry, a senior policy associate with Seattle-based Alliance for a Just Society, the lead author of the report, which also was produced in collaboration with the Idaho Community Action Network. “Women and people of color just simply are not making ends meet," he said. "It’s concerning and sobering to say the least.”
The full report is online here. The sponsors say raising the minimum wage, expanding Medicaid and other steps could ease the burden for low-wage workers in Idaho. Idaho currently ties its minimum wage to the federal minimum wage, so it’s $7.25 an hour, a rate that hasn’t changed in five years. Last year, legislation was introduced to phase in an increase in Idaho’s minimum wage to $9.75 an hour, but the bill, sponsored by three Democratic state senators, never got a hearing.
As budget discussions ramp up at the city of Spokane, a conservative think tank has released a study suggesting that pay for Spokane’s police and firefighters has not only outpaced the region’s average wages but is better than what their peers in larger Northwest cities are earning.
Among the highlights in the Seattle-based Washington Policy Center study: The average firefighter and police officer salary in Spokane is 87 percent higher than the median household income in Spokane; police and fire union dues total about $750,000 annually; and police and fire employees on average are compensated better than their peers in Portland.
Though the numbers could be read as an indictment, the study’s co-author said the study wasn’t meant to sway people but rather inform them.
“People can see what the numbers are and decide if they’re too low, too high or just about right,” said Chris Cargill, the center’s Eastern Washington director. “People make good policy decisions when they know the numbers.” Read more. Nicholas Deshais, SR
Occasionally, we hear from the business community about the wonders of the business climate in Idaho. Usually, though, those praising the Gem State’s business-friendliness don’t point out that one of the reasons is this: Employees are paid less – and in some cases a lot less – than most employees elsewhere. The median hourly wage for an Idaho worker is $14.58 an hour. That’s almost two bucks an hour less than the national median – and five bucks below Washington’s. Closer to home, there’s a gap of $2.47 an hour between the median hourly wages paid in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene/Shawn Vestal, SR. More here.
Question: Which side will raise Idaho's minimum wage sooner — the Idaho Legislature or U.S. Congress?
Today is “Equal Pay Day,” reports Deb Courson Smith of Public News Service (PNS), the point at which the average pay for a woman in the U.S. catches up to the average of what a man made last year. Courson Smith reports that a new analysis of U.S. Census data by the National Partnership for Women & Families shows the average full-time female worker in Idaho makes more than $10,000 a year less than the average male worker.
Sarah Crawford, director of workplace fairness for the national partnership, told Courson Smith that not much has changed since last year's Equal Pay Day. "The interesting point," she said, "is that there is no state where women are earning more than men. The wage gap persists in every corner of our country." You can read her full report here. The analysis shows Idaho women earn 75 cents per hour for every dollar earned by their male counterparts; the national rate is 77 cents.
The minimum wage in Washington will go up to $9.19 an hour on Jan. 1, keeping the state ahead of all others and nearly $2 above the federal minimum wage of $7.25.
Idaho’s minimum wage will remain unchanged at $7.25 an hour, which is just over $15,000 a year for a full-time employee. It also falls within the federal definition of poverty for a two-person household.
The Washington wage, now $9.04, changes annually to keep pace with the rising cost of living. Voters in 1998 approved a ballot initiative that provides for the rate adjustments.
The wage bump will apply to an estimated 144,000 workers – many of them in retail, food service, hotel and health care jobs – providing them an extra $310 per year on average, according to the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute. Another 20,000 will see a raise as pay scales are adjusted upward, the Washington, D.C.-based group estimates.
Nine other states – Montana, Oregon, Colorado, Arizona, Ohio, Missouri, Florida, Rhode Island and Vermont – also raise minimum wage rates on New Year’s Day.
Most of the new rates will remain under $8, including $7.80 in Montana. Vermont’s wage will increase to $8.60 and Oregon’s will go to $8.95 an hour.
Another day, another study that places Idaho among the worst states in terms of the gender pay gap. This time, it’s the American Association of University Women that’s tracking the disparities in men’s and women’s earnings by state. The AAUW study places Idaho 43rd, based on federal data from 2010. What does placing 43rd mean? Well, median pay for a full-time worker in Idaho is $41,128, if that worker is a man. If the worker is a woman, it’s $30,403. Put in other terms, women in Idaho earn about 74 percent as much as men/Molly Messick, StateImpact. More here.
Question: Why such a bad disparity in Idaho?
The average wage in Washington rose nearly 2 percent last year, largely because thousands of low-paying jobs disappeared during the recession.
Average annual pay increased 1.9 percent to $47,153 in 2009 – the smallest increase since 2004. The average weekly wage was $906 last year, the Employment Security Department said today.
Among other things, average wage is used to compute unemployment-insurance benefits for jobless workers. Because the average wage increased in 2009, the minimum and maximum unemployment benefits will go up for new unemployment claims beginning next month.