U.S. minimum wage - Statistics & Facts

The federal minimum wage in the United States was first introduced at the end of the 19th century as a result of industrialization, as more factories had been created to in order to produce more goods. During this period, there was substantial growth in mass production, and as a result of the many Americans who left farms and small towns to work in factories, workers created unions in order to lobby for better working conditions. The Fair Labor Standard Act of 1938 put forth national minimum wages and a maximum number of hours workers can be required to work. President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed this legislation as a part of the New Deal, which was created as a response to the Great Depression. In order to prevent continuous exploitation, Roosevelt created a national minimum wage. A minimum wage is supposed to provide enough income to afford necessities such as food, clothing, and shelter, however that is not always the case. The federal minimum wage has stood at 7.25 U.S. dollars since 2009, but would be 19.33 U.S. dollars in 2017 if it rose with productivity.

21 states in the U.S. began 2020 with higher minimum wages, including Alaska, Florida, Ohio, California, New Jersey, and New York. Some of these states automatically increased their minimum wage based on the cost of living, while some increased it as a result of legislation passed. As of January 1, 2020, Washington State has the highest state minimum wage, at 13.50 U.S. dollars per hour. However, some cities have their own minimum wage, such as New York City, which had a minimum wage of 15 U.S. dollars per hour, as compared to the statewide minimum wage of 11.80 U.S. dollars per hour in 2020.

Unfortunately, the minimum wage is not equivalent to a living wage anymore, and many Americans work more than one minimum wage job in order to make ends meet. For example, San Jose, California, had the highest annual income requirement for comfortable living in 2018 out of the most populous cities in the United States. As one of the most global and innovative cities, there is a high cost of living, which makes living on the current minimum wage hard to sustain.

The leisure and hospitality industry had the highest number of workers paid the minimum wage in 2018, with about 1.05 million workers making minimum wage. In that same year, most minimum-wage workers were between 16 and 24 years old, and most of them were white. In 2018, Louisiana had the highest number of minimum wage workers out of all 50 states. In that same year, around 606,000 low wage workers had some college, but no degree -- a clear majority. As of 2018, there were about 1.28 million workers in the United States paid an hourly rate below the prevailing federal wage.

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Minimum Wage in the United States

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Low wage employment


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