Bottom Rung

fast food, kitchen, minimum wage
Gorgeoux / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho’s share of minimum wage workers declined 0.6 percent from 2012 to 2013 according to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The drop means Idaho no longer has the largest share of minimum wage workers in the country; Tennessee has taken Idaho’s spot.

Michelle Stennett
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

A plan to put more money in the pockets of Idaho's lowest-paid workers cleared its first hurdle Monday when the Senate State Affairs Committee voted to send it forward to a full hearing.

The proposal would increase the state's minimum hourly pay from $7.25 the federal requirement— to $8.50 July 1, then raise it again to $9.75 in 2015.

But Republicans who control 81 percent of the Legislature immediately criticized the plan, throwing its future into doubt.

money, wages
Molly Messick / Boise State Public Radio

A Democratic lawmaker will ask her fellow legislators to sign off on a plan to raise Idaho's minimum wage.

But majority Republicans have largely rejected efforts to hike the minimum wage, even as neighboring states' pay goes up.

Idaho's wage is currently aligned with the federal minimum of $7.25, and hasn't gone up since 2009.

The state currently has the highest number of workers earning the minimum wage in the U.S.

Sen. Michelle Stennett's proposal comes alongside a proposed voter initiative that seeks to raise pay to $9.80.

money, wages
Molly Messick / Boise State Public Radio

The minimum wage goes up Wednesday in 13 states. Idaho isn’t one of them, but some of its neighbors are.

Washington and Oregon already have the first and second highest minimum wages in the country at $9.19 and $8.95 respectively. And, effective January 1, the lowest paid workers in Washington must get $9.32 an hour, and $9.10 in Oregon.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr Creative Commons

Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, said Monday he's against raising the nation’s minimum wage

During a conference call with reporters, Labrador said he understands why those pushing for pay increases for fast food and retail workers are doing so. But he thinks raising minimum wages will hurt workers instead of helping them.

It’s More Expensive To ‘Get By’ In Rural Idaho Than Boise

Jul 10, 2013
ImahinasyonPhotography / Flickr Creative Commons

It costs more to get by in rural Idaho than it does in Boise, the state's population center. That's according to the Economic Policy Institute's family budget calculator.

A family of four living in Boise needs $56,491 per year. A family of four in rural Idaho needs $58,071.

Here's a comparison of what it costs for a family of four, two parents and two children, to live in four different parts of Idaho.

Idaho has the largest percentage of minimum wage jobs in the country. That’s been the jumping off point for StateImpact Idaho’s series examining wages; we’re calling it Bottom Rung.

Seth Harris
U.S. Department of Labor / Flickr Creative Commons

As in many states, Idaho’s minimum wage hasn’t changed since 2009, when the hourly minimum was boosted by the federal government.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found 31,000 hourly Idaho workers earned the minimum wage, $7.25, or less in 2012. That’s a 63 percent increase from 2011.

McDonalds Minimum Wage
Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

The border between Washington and Idaho is like a petri dish for what the minimum wage does to the economy. That’s where two extremes meet. Idaho has the federal minimum wage: $7.25 an hour. While Washington’s is nearly $2 more.

Call Center Job Fair
Molly Messick / Boise State Public Radio

Bob Lokken, CEO of Boise-based WhiteCloud Analytics, is three years into building his new company. It designs software for health care professionals with the aim of allowing doctors and others to interrogate vast amounts of health care data. Lokken founded it after his previous company, ProClarity Corporation, was bought by Microsoft.

Recently, he showed me around the downtown office where software developers work intently behind large computer screens. I wasn’t there to talk about better health outcomes through guided data analysis; I was there to talk about Idaho’s workforce.

Construction Worker
Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

Not long ago, you could hear the buzz of power saws all over the Treasure Valley. It was punctuated by the steady rhythm of hammers and nail guns. More than 10,000 homes went up in Ada and Canyon counties in the two years before the recession hit. Then, the sound stopped.

“’08 and ’09 were really hard,” says Aaron Wright of Steelhead Construction. He founded the siding and remodeling company as Idaho’s housing boom took hold. At the peak, Wright employed more than 30 people. When the market crashed, he scaled back to three.

Jordyn Skinner, Franco's Pizzeria, Minimum Wage
Emilie Ritter Saunders / StateImpact Idaho

There’s a brand new pizza joint in southeast Boise. It’s nestled in a mini-strip mall with a gas station, dry cleaner and hair salon.

On a recent Friday evening, Franco’s Pizzeria was just starting to pick up. It’s a tiny place. The cash register is only a few steps away from the industrial pizza ovens. There are a handful of tables and stools inside for someone who just wants a quick slice.