7.2 percent of Oklahoma workers earned minimum wage or less last year

Oklahoma's rate of workers earning minimum wage or less is third-highest in the nation, according to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
BY LAURIE WINSLOW laurie.winslow@tulsaworld.com Published: April 6, 2013
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Oklahoma had the nation's third-highest rate of hourly paid workers earning at or below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The bureau reported that 64,000 of the state's 890,000 hourly paid workers, or 7.2 percent, earned the federal minimum wage or less. Of those, 29,000 people earned exactly the federal minimum wage, while 35,000 earned less.

The rate was up from 2011, when 56,000 of the state's 828,000 hourly paid employees, or 6.8 percent, earned the federal minimum wage or less.

Nationwide, nearly 3.6 million workers were paid at or below the minimum wage last year, accounting for 4.7 percent of all hourly paid workers, down from 5.2 percent in 2011, according to the bureau.

Minimum-wage workers tended to be young. Workers younger than 25 represented about one-fifth of all hourly paid workers but made up nearly half of those paid the federal minimum wage or less, the bureau stated.

Idaho had the largest proportion of hourly paid workers earning at or below the federal minimum at 7.7 percent, followed by Texas at 7.5 percent.

States with the lowest percentage of hourly workers earning the minimum wage or below included Alaska, Oregon, California, Montana and Washington — all at less than 2 percent.

The number of Oklahoma workers earning minimum wage or less has fluctuated since data became available in 2000 — from 25,000 in 2007 to 72,000 in 2010, according to the bureau.

David Blatt, director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, noted that data can be subject to a quirk in the survey or a change in the methodology, so he cautioned against putting too much emphasis on any given year.



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