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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Idaho leads in percentage of workers paid minimum wage

When it comes to paying workers as little as possible, Idaho ranks first in the nation.

The state has the highest percentage of minimum-wage workers of any state, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics.

The share of hourly workers in Idaho making $7.25 an hour or less jumped to 7.7 percent in 2012. That represented a 63 percent increase from 2011.

The bureau estimates that 31,000 of Idaho’s 404,000 hourly workers were paid the minimum wage last year – just over $15,000 a year for a full-time employee. In 2011, 12,000 Idaho workers, or 5 percent of the state’s hourly workforce, made the minimum wage or less. That ranked the state 30th in the nation.

Three of every four jobs the Idaho economy created in 2012 were in the service sector, where the minimum-wage jobs are, said Bob Fick, spokesman for the Idaho Department of Labor.

Nationally, 4.7 percent of all hourly workers made the minimum wage or less in 2012, down from 5.2 percent the year before.

Washington ranks near the bottom – at 47th – with 1.7 percent of its workers, or 29,000, earning the minimum wage. The minimum wage in Washington went up to $9.19 an hour on Jan. 1, keeping the state ahead of all others.

At 7.7 percent, Idaho’s share of minimum-wage workers is the highest the state has recorded in the decade that the bureau has been making estimates. The previous high was in 2010 at 7.6 percent, which ranked 16th among the states.

The federal minimum wage was raised to $7.25 in 2009. President Barack Obama has proposed raising it to $9 an hour.

Employers may pay servers who earn tips less than the minimum wage. In Idaho, tipped workers may earn a wage as low as $3.35 an hour.