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The share of Idaho workers earning minimum wage has grown from 5 percent in 2011 to 7.7 percent in 2012. The growth has put Idaho in the top spot for the largest share of minimum wage workers in the country. How did that happen? And what’s being done to reverse the trend?

Idaho's Share Of Minimum Wage Workers Declines, Now 2nd Highest In U.S.

fast food, kitchen, minimum wage
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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.

Still, 7.1 percent of Idaho’s hourly workforce, or 29,000 workers, earned the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour or less last year. Nationally, the share of minimum wage workers declined to 4.3 percent.

The share of minimum wage workers in Idaho has increased substantially in the last three years, from 5 percent of the state’s total hourly workforce in 2011 up to a high of 7.7 percent in 2012.

The increase in workers earning the federal minimum can be explained by several factors, including growth in Idaho’s low-wage service sector, a decline in higher-paying construction jobs, and a structural change away from manufacturing jobs.

Idaho's minimum wage hasn't changed since 2009, as other western states have increased their required minimums.

A plan to raise the wage failed during the 2014 legislative session, and a ballot initiative to ask voters to approve an increase is still far short of the signatures needed to qualify for November's ballot. According to the Idaho Secretary of State's office, the minimum wage initiative now has 13 percent of the signatures it needs. The deadline is April 30.

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