Who would gain under minimum wage hike?

Bills to raise Minnesota’s minimum wage are getting a deep look this week at the Capitol. But who earns minimum wage in Minnesota?

Data from the state Department of Labor and Industry offer some clues. The overwhelming number of people earning Minnesota’s minimum wage are young, unmarried people working part-time.

Here’s what the data show (data from August 2010 to July 2011):

  • About 93,000 Minnesotans earned at or below the $7.25 an hour federal minimum wage. That’s about 6 percent of all hourly workers in Minnesota and 4 percent of the 2.44 million state workforce.
  • Among those 93,000, 72 percent were part-time workers. Nearly half worked in eating and drinking places; among those, about half received tip wages.
  • Unmarried workers accounted for 81 percent of all hourly workers paid the minimum wage or less.

Generalizing about data is always perilous. But it’s pretty safe to conclude from the state labor department report that the people who would benefit from the higher wage are overwhelmingly young, single people working in restaurants or in sales.

Minnesota’s large employer minimum is $6.15 an hour, $1.10 under the feds; the small employer minimum is $2 an hour less. Ours is one of only four states with a state wage lower than the feds (five have no law).


One piece of data from the Labor Department report that needs more exploring: After food service and sales, personal care attendants were the largest group working at or below the federal minimum wage in Minnesota.


  • Naomi

    You refer to “tip wages” above. If tips are “wages” — and indeed both servers and their employers do pay taxes on declared tips — why in Minnesota are declared tips not included in the calculation of how much a tipped worker earns per hour for the purposes of “minimum” wage?