Who makes the minimum wage? Aren’t most minimum wage workers teenagers and part time workers?
According to 2002 Census Bureau data 75% of workers affected by the minimum wage in Washington are over age 20. Nearly 60% of workers are female, and nearly half work full time. Using national data, a 2001 study by the Economic Policy Institute identified minimum wage workers as contributing 49% of their family’s total weekly earnings, on average. Not surprisingly, low-income families relied even more heavily on minimum wage workers; families with incomes of less than $25,000 relied on minimum wage workers for 76% of their total weekly earnings, on average.
Don’t people making the minimum wage quickly advance up the wage ladder?
A 1999 study completed by the Urban Institute found that the hourly wages of working women who had been off of welfare for some time are no higher than the wages of women who recently left welfare for work. Similarly, a recent study from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that more than 8% of workers spend at least half of the first 10 years after school working in jobs paying near the minimum wage.
Washington has had one of the highest minimum wages in the nation. Does that relate to its high unemployment rate?
No. When we look at all the evidence, it becomes clear that Washington’s current unemployment rate is due to the national economic recession, not to increases in the minimum wage. The current recession is hitting the Pacific Northwest hard because of the region’s reliance on the aerospace and high tech industries.
The years 1999 and 2000 saw the largest increases in the minimum wage. During these years, employment increased in the industries that employ the largest number of minimum wage workers (eating and drinking places and retail trade), at rates similar to overall job growth in the economy. Current job losses in these industries are the result of unemployment in other sectors. For example, as people lose their high-paying jobs in the aerospace and high tech industries, they have less disposable income to spend on shopping and restaurants.
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