Regional Minimum Wages Continue To Rise, Idaho's Unchanged Since 2009

Dec 30, 2014

Five of Idaho's neighboring states will ring in the New Year with an increase in their minimum wage. Idaho, meanwhile, hasn't seen an increase in its minimum wage since 2009.

Idaho's wage is the federal minimum, $7.25 per hour.

Not only is Idaho nearly surrounded by states with a minimum wage above the federal baseline, but it's nearly surrounded by states with the highest minimum wages in the country.

Washington and Oregon will have the highest state minimum wages in the nation at $9.25 and $9.47, respectively. Washington, D.C., meanwhile, will boast the highest minimum at $9.50. California's minimum hourly pay is $9.00.

This map shades Idaho's neighboring states based on their 2015 minimum wage, the darkest purple signifies the highest pay.

The map also includes the share of hourly workers being paid the federal minimum wage or less, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Conference of State Legislatures | Map: Emilie Ritter Saunders

In 2012, Idaho had the highest share of minimum wage workers in the country. Last year, Idaho's share of minimum wage workers dropped slightly, putting it in second place behind Tennessee.

Here are the regional minimum wages, beginning Jan. 1, 2015:

  1. Washington, $9.47
  2. Oregon, $9.25
  3. California, $9.00
  4. Nevada, $8.25
  5. Colorado, $8.23
  6. Arizona, $8.05
  7. Montana, $8.05
  8. Idaho, $7.25
  9. Utah, $7.25
  10. Wyoming, $5.15

It might not be a surprise that Idaho's politically left-leaning neighbors of Washington and Oregon supported ballot measures to increase their minimum wages, it might be less expected that right-leaning Montana voters also approved a minimum wage increase.

Another conservative state, Wyoming, is working to pass a minimum wage hike. Wyoming's wage is lower than the federal minimum, at $5.15 an hour. Although, if an employer is involved in interstate trade, it must pay a base rate of $7.25.

The Casper Star Tribune reports a Republican legislator is, for the second time, trying pass a minimum wage increase of $9.

Rep. Jim Byrd, R-Cheyenne, said he is sponsoring the bill to help workers obtain a livable wage. Inflation has increased at a higher rate than their wages, he said.

“At the end of the day if I worked 40 hours really hard at my job, I should not have to turn around to ask for public assistance to make ends meet,” he said. “You should have a small apartment, pay your bills, and live somewhat comfortably. That’s not happening right now.” - Casper Star Tribune

Idaho's unsuccessful effort to put a minimum wage increase on the ballot in 2014 floundered without cohesive statewide support.

Economists don't agree on the effects of minimum wage increases. In one 2010 study, researchers looking at businesses that border states with differing minimum wages, including the Idaho-Washington border, found job losses were a wash.

Bill Lester of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill was on the team that looked at 16 years worth of restaurant employment data for 316 pairs of border counties.

“When you add up all those comparisons and look at the average of all those differences in employment, the difference is zero,” says Lester. “On aggregate, there’s no job losses.”

Lester is saying when the minimum wage goes up, no jobs are lost. - StateImpact Idaho

Still, as this Washington Post article pointed out, economists do agree that raising the minimum wage does reduce poverty.

Find Emilie Ritter Saunders on Twitter @emiliersaunders

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