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Scraping by: Minimum wage across America

By Candace Corner
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( -- With the costs for gas, energy and seemingly everything else at an uncomfortable high, the only national figures that don't seem to be getting any fatter are the ones on the paychecks.

The minimum wage has been stuck at $5.15 an hour for over nine years, making it the second-longest freeze in wage growth since the establishment of the U.S. minimum wage in 1938. The cost of living has risen 26 percent, but the minimum rate of compensation hasn't seen a value this low since 1955, and Senate recently rejected a proposal that would have raised the rate to $7.25 by 2008.

So who's making the minimum? According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), 11 percent of the workforce, an estimated 14.9 million workers, would receive a boost in their hourly compensation if the rate hike proposal had passed. About 6.6 million workers earning less than $7.25 would have been directly effected by the increase. But the pay increase isn't limited to those earning exactly $5.15 an hour. More than 8 million workers earning a bit more than the minimum rate would see an increase as employers made adjustments to keep the payroll in check.

As political parties continue to battle out wage laws at the federal level, more than 20 states and the District of Columbia have raised rates through ballot initiatives and legislative actions to meet the needs of their residential workers. As of August 2006, the EPI reports that more than half of the U.S. population currently lives in states that have, or are about to have, passed laws raising minimum wages higher than the federal rate of $5.15.

The 2005 Current Population Survey, compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, reported West Virginia and Oklahoma as having the highest number of workers earning hourly wages at or below $5.15. In contrast, the states of California, Alaska and Washington reported the lowest population of residents earning minimum wage or less.

According to combined data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, individual state labor departments and the EPI, here are the most current findings for minimum wages rates as of August 2006:

Alabama: No state minimum wage law.

Alaska: $7.15. Rate automatically adjusts to remain at least $1.00 above the federal minimum wage in the event of a federal change.

Arizona: No state minimum wage law.

Arkansas: $5.15. Increasing to $6.25 as of October 1, 2006.

California: $6.75. Increasing to $7.50 as of January 1, 2007, and $8.00 as of January 1, 2008. Beyond that, the minimum wage will be evaluated yearly. The rate is $8.82 in San Francisco. Companies that do business with the City of Los Angeles must pay workers at least $9.08 per hour with health benefits, or $10.33 without.

Colorado: $5.15.

Connecticut: $7.40. Increasing to $7.65 as of January 1, 2007.

Delaware: $6.15. Increasing to $6.65 in 2007, and $7.15 in 2008.

District of Columbia: $7.00.

Florida: $6.40 (adjusting annually with inflation).

Georgia: $5.15.

Hawaii: $6.75. Increasing to $7.25 as of January 1, 2007.

Idaho: $5.15.

Illinois: $6.50. $6.00 for employees under the age of 18.

Indiana: $5.15.

Iowa: $5.15.

Kansas: $2.65. Applies only when the federal Fair Labor Standards Act does not.

Kentucky: $5.15.

Louisiana: No state minimum wage law

Maine: $6.50. Increasing to $6.75 as of October 2006, and $7.00 as of October, 2007.

Maryland: $6.15.

Massachusetts: $6.75. Increasing to $7.50 as of January 1, 2007, and $8.00 as of January 1, 2008.

Michigan: $6.95 as of October 1, 2006, $7.15 as of July 1, 2007 and to $7.40 as of July 1, 2008.

Minnesota: $6.15.

Mississippi: No state minimum wage law.

Missouri: $5.15.

Montana: $5.15.

Nebraska: $5.15.

Nevada: $5.15. A 2004 amendment, proposing an increase minimum wage to $6.15 starting in 2007, and adjusted yearly, requires re-approval in 2006 to become law.

New Hampshire: $5.15.

New Jersey: $6.15. Increases to $7.15 as of Oct. 2006.

New Mexico: $5.15. $9.50 in Santa Fe, as of 2006.

New York: $6.75. Increasing to $7.15 as of January 1, 2007.

North Carolina: $5.15. Increasing to $6.15 as of January 1, 2007.

North Dakota: $5.15.

Ohio: $5.15.

Oklahoma: $5.15, and $2.00 for work not covered by the federal minimum wage.

Oregon: $7.50 (adjusting annually with inflation).

Pennsylvania: $5.15. Increasing to $6.25 as of January 1, 2007, and to $7.15 as of July 1, 2007. For companies with 10 or fewer employees: $5.65 as of January 1, 2007; $6.65 as of July 1, 2007; and $7.15 as of July 1, 2008.

Rhode Island: $7.10. Increasing to $7.40 as of 2007.

South Carolina: $5.15.

South Dakota: $5.15.

Tennessee: No state minimum wage law.

Texas: $5.15.

Utah: $5.15.

Vermont: $7.25 (adjusted annually with inflation).

Virginia: $5.15

Washington: $7.63 (adjusted annually with inflation).

West Virginia: $5.15.

Wisconsin: $6.50.

Wyoming: $5.15.

© Copyright 2007. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority

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