Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey

Characteristics of Minimum Wage Workers: 2009

In 2009, 72.6 million American workers age 16 and over were paid at hourly rates, representing 58.3 percent of all wage and salary workers.1 On July 24, 2009, the Federal minimum wage increased to $7.25 per hour from $6.55 per hour. Data in this report reflect the average number of workers earning the prevailing Federal minimum wage or less for the calendar year 2009 (those who earned $6.55 or less from January 2009 through July 2009 and those who earned $7.25 or less from August 2009 through the end of the year). Among those paid by the hour, 980,000 earned exactly the prevailing Federal minimum wage in 2009. Nearly 2.6 million had wages below the minimum.2 Together, these 3.6 million workers with wages at or below the minimum made up 4.9 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 2009 data.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. These data on minimum wage earners are derived from the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly nationwide survey of households. Data in this summary are 2009 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 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 small 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.


Characteristics of Minimum Wage Workers: 2009, Tables 1 - 10

Characteristics of Minimum Wage Workers: 2009 (PDF)


Last Modified Date: March 1, 2010

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