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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, Mountain States See Big Wages Boost. But There's More To The Story

Brenda Gottsabend/Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho and Colorado saw some of the nation's leading growth in wages this past year. But other western states, including Montana and Wyoming, lagged behind according to thelatest report from the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Wage increases in Idaho are mirroring the state’s booming population--the state ranked second only behind Washington for growth in salaries. Colorado and Utah also saw some of the highest earnings boosts in the nation.

"Idaho is doing well and we’re near the top," said Idaho state economist Derek Santos. "But this seems to be a real regional phenomenon. The Rocky Mountain States are doing really well."

Idaho saw big wage boosts particularly in the construction and manufacturing sectors. Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter cheered the report on social media. But the wage increases don't tell the entire story.

Idaho ranks among the bottom states for per capita income overall, with Utah not far behind. So while the growth is positive news for workers, those states still have some catching up to do. Idaho also has some of the highest rates of minimum wage workersin the nation.

Wyoming saw some of the lowest wage growth last year. State economist Jim Robinson said that’s in part because extractive industries are slowing down.

"This time around we’re not seeing that big burst in terms of mining or energy growth. It’s been more muted." Wyoming already has relatively high per capita wages, thanks to high-paying mining jobs, Robinson said.

Find reporter Amanda Peacher on Twitter @amandapeacher.

Copyright 2018 Boise State Public Radio

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Amanda Peacher works for the Mountain West News Bureau out of Boise State Public Radio. She's an Idaho native who returned home after a decade of living and reporting in Oregon. She's an award-winning reporter with a background in community engagement and investigative journalism.

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