Bottom Rung: Why An Influx Of Retirees To Idaho Is Creating More Low-Wage Jobs

May 8, 2013

Jordyn Skinner is a freshman at Boise State University. She also works part-time at Franco's Pizzeria.
Credit 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.

Two employees behind the register take turns answering the phone and taking orders. Two other workers are busy hand-tossing pizza dough, spreading sauce on the crust and layering the New York-style pies with toppings.

Save for the owners, everyone at Franco’s earns $7.50 an hour, that’s a quarter above minimum wage.

“That’s pretty much what I expected,” says pizza maker Jordyn Skinner. “That’s what I got paid back home when I worked retail. I expected I’d make minimum wage over here.”

Skinner is an 18-year-old college student from Portland. For her, this near-minimum wage job is for spending money, she isn’t yet supporting herself. But that’s why Skinner is going to college to become a physical therapist, she would like to be able to support herself in the future.

“But for right now, while I’m in college, it’s alright,” she adds.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 31,000 Idahoans earned minimum wage or less last year. That’s up 63 percent from 2011. The increase in minimum wage jobs here has given Idaho the unwanted distinction of having the largest share of minimum wage workers in the country.

Skinner is part of Idaho’s growing service sector. The Idaho Labor Department says three in four jobs created here last year were service jobs that tend to pay low wages or the minimum wage. Click here to continue reading...