Most low-wage workers in prime working years
Minneapolis -- Low-wage workers in Minnesota are predominantly a middle-aged group, many of them working more than 30 hours a week, caring for families and struggling to get by.
Minneapolis - Low-wage workers in Minnesota are predominantly a middle-aged group, many of them working more than 30 hours a week, caring for families and struggling to get by.
According to a new analysis from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, 60 percent of the state’s workers earning less than $20,000 per year are between 25 and 64 years old.
“Although some people work for low wages as a trade-off for more time or to supplement other sources of family income, the majority of low-wage workers rely on every penny,” Amanda Rohrer, an analyst for the state, wrote in the report.
Amid the debate over the merits of a higher minimum wage, one criticism of an increase has been that it will mostly help teenagers working part-time jobs. Legislators earlier this year voted to raise the minimum in a series of steps through 2016.
While people age 24 and younger are the state’s largest group of workers right at the minimum wage, at least 27,000 Minnesotans between ages 25 and 54 will have seen a 31 percent pay increase by the time the minimum wage rises to $9.50 per hour in 2016, according to the Department of Labor and Industry.
And that doesn’t count all the workers over 25 who earn somewhere just above the old minimum of $7.25 per hour and will see an increase over the next two years.
One person who will benefit is Maricela Flores, 40, who works for a contract cleaning company and lives in Shakopee, Minn. She is the mother of five children, with four still at home. Her wage will rise from $8 per hour to $9.50 per hour by 2016, roughly an extra $60 per week.
“I’ve already been planning and thinking about it,” she said Friday. “I’d be able to buy more healthy food for my family, and then I’d be able to buy better clothes for my kids.”
Those 15 to 24 are the largest group of minimum wage workers in Minnesota, according to the Department of Labor and Industry’s 2013 report on the minimum wage. Of 83,000 people earning the minimum, about 50,000 are 15 to 24 years old.
But the number of people between 25 and 54 earning minimum wage in the state is still roughly twice what is was in 2009. And the new analysis released Thursday by the state’s economic development agency shows that three-fifths of Minnesota’s low-wage workforce - those earning less than $20,000 per year - are between 25 and 64.
Most work more than 30 hours per week - but not 40 hours, the report showed. They are dramatically less likely to have employer health insurance and they struggle to pay rent. Already, nearly half of Minnesota households spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent.
Legislators passed a law this spring increasing the minimum wage for most workers - those employed at companies with more than $500,000 in annual revenue - from $7.25 per hour to $8 per hour in August. The wage steps up $1 per hour next year and another 50 cents in August 2016 to $9.50 per hour.
Opponents of the minimum wage increase have moved on and are setting their sights on the next legislative session to try to remove a provision that would index wage increases to inflation starting in 2018.
For Flores, who has not seen a wage increase in two years and cleans stores for one of the biggest companies in Minnesota, the wage increase is only a start.
“I think it’s a good thing that the minimum wage will be going up, but overall we need to think about the workers who are producing things for these companies,” she said. “We deserve to get a decent wage.”