Utah and the Minimum Wage (with audio)

In 1968, the minimum wage paid to American workers was $1.60 an hour. Adjusted for inflation and indexed to the cost of living, it would be equal to $10.70 of pre-tax spending money in 2013. Five years ago, the last time the minimum wage was increased, it went to $7.25 or the 2013 equivalent of $7.87. Still at $7.25, you have exactly that to spend before taxes if you start a job at minimum wage.

In his 2015 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama urged the nation’s lawmakers to increase the minimum wage that employees are paid as a matter of law. Why? Because in 2015 many people cannot sustain themselves on a pre-tax weekly wage of $290.

Though some may argue that minimum wage is relegated to the young who are just launching their careers, government statistics say otherwise. In 2013, nearly 800,000 Americans between the ages of 16 to 19 received wages at or below minimum wage. In that same year, nearly 1.64 million Americans over the age of 25 were earning $7.25 per hour or less.

With the notable exception of current fuel prices, many of America’s staple supplies, goods and services are being repackaged and retooled to sustain profit margins for companies here and abroad. This cost of living is real, and it often occurs at the expense of the American household.

“To every mayor, governor, and state legislator in America, I say, you don’t have to wait for Congress to act; Americans will support you if you take this on.  And as a chief executive, I intend to lead by example. Profitable corporations like Costco see higher wages as the smart way to boost productivity and reduce turnover. We should too.  In the coming weeks, I will issue an Executive Order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour – because if you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty.” — Barack Obama; State of the Union, Jan 20, 2015

In Utah, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development is often pleased to promote Forbes’ magazine ranking as the “number one state in America to do business,” and that jobless rates are well below the national average. They truly are – for the past two months, Utah’s unemployment figure is at 3.6% – that’s why the Governor often says that the state’s economic “engine” is just humming right along and that his office isn’t in a hurry to tinker with taxes or other economic tools.

But Utah’s Department of Workforce Services numbers reveal a different story. We asked Governor Herbert about this discrepancy…

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