Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey

Characteristics of Minimum Wage Workers: 2008

According to Current Population Survey estimates for 2008, 75.3 million American workers age 16 and over were paid at hourly rates, representing 58.2 percent of all wage and salary workers.1 On July 24, 2008, the Federal minimum wage increased to $6.55 per hour from $5.85 per hour. Data in this report reflect the average number of workers earning the prevailing Federal minimum wage or less for the year (those who earned $5.85 or less from January 2008 through July 2008 and those who earned $6.55 or less from August 2008 through the end of the year). Among those paid by the hour, 286,000 earned exactly the prevailing Federal minimum wage in 2008. About 1.9 million had wages below the minimum.2 Together, these 2.2 million workers with wages at or below the minimum made up 3.0 percent of all hourly-paid workers. Tables 1-10 present data on a wide array of demographic and socioeconomic characteristics for hourly-paid workers earning at or below the Federal minimum wage. The following are some highlights from the 2008 data.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Bureau of Labor Statistics data on minimum wage earners are derived from the Current Population Survey (CPS), a nationwide sample survey of households that includes questions enabling the identification of hourly-paid workers and their hourly wage rate. Data in this summary are 2008 annual averages.

1 Data are for wage and salary workers age 16 and over and refer to earnings on a person's sole or principal job. All self-employed persons are excluded whether or not their businesses are incorporated.

2 It should be noted that the presence of a sizable number of workers with wages below the minimum does not necessarily indicate violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, as there are exemptions to the minimum wage provisions of the law. The estimates of the numbers of minimum and subminimum wage workers presented in the accompanying tables pertain to workers paid at hourly rates; salaried and other non-hourly workers are excluded. As such, the actual number of workers with earnings at or below the prevailing Federal minimum is undoubtedly understated. Research has shown that a relatively smaller number and share of salaried workers and others not paid by the hour have earnings that, when translated into hourly rates, are at or below the minimum wage. However, BLS does not routinely estimate hourly earnings for non-hourly workers because of data concerns that arise in producing these estimates. For further information, see Steven Haugen and Earl Mellor, "Estimating the number of minimum wage workers," Monthly Labor Review, January 1990 (PDF 415K).


Characteristics of Minimum Wage Workers: 2008, Tables 1 - 10

Characteristics of Minimum Wage Workers: 2008 (PDF 88 K)


Last Modified Date: March 11, 2009

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