Some 550,000 Texans, or 9.5 percent of hourly paid workers, made the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour or less last year. That's up 76,000 workers, or 16 percent, from 2009, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Monday.
Leslie Helmcamp, a policy analyst with the Austin-based Center for Public Policy Priorities, which focuses on low- and moderate-income Texans, called the numbers “alarming.”
“The higher proportion of hourly paid workers who are earning at or below the minimum wage is reflective of our low high school and college completion rates,” Helmcamp said. “We can only attract higher-paying jobs if we are able to move more Texans into higher education and ultimately complete a college degree.”
The federal poverty level for a family of three was $18,310 last year, Helmcamp said, which means a single parent with two children and working for minimum wage would earn about $3,200 less than the poverty level.
“So you have a pretty big gap,” she said. “It's significant because it demonstrates that work alone is not a pathway out of poverty.”
In 2007, the center calculated a family of three would need $31,000 annually to “get by” in San Antonio. That's more than double the annual salary of someone paid minimum wage in 2010.
The median wage of all hourly paid Texans was $11.20 last year. Nationally, it was $12.50. In Texas, the median hourly wage for men was $12.13; for women, $10.24. Nationally, the median was $13.76 for men and $11.83 for women.
Texas tied with Mississippi for the highest percentage of hourly paid workers earning the minimum wage or less last year. However, the actual number of hourly paid workers in the Magnolia State earning at or below the minimum wage was only 63,000. (The previous year Texas was No. 1 on its own based on percentage.)
Cheryl Abbot, a regional economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, blamed the high percentage of minimum-wage earners in Texas on the state having a lot of low-paying industries.
It isn't a recent phenomenon, she added. Last year's 16 percent increase in Texans earning minimum wage or less was the smallest rise since a decline was reported in 2006.
The 474,000 hourly paid Texans earning minimum wage or less in 2009 was an 81 percent increase from 2008, Abbot said. She attributed the big jumps to increases in the federal minimum wage since 2007. It rose from $5.15 to $5.85 in 2007. That was followed by an increase to $6.55 in 2008 before it rose to its current level in July 2009.
Texans earning an hourly wage who made less than the minimum wage actually fell last year to 4.9 percent from 5.8 percent in 2009. Those earning exactly the minimum wage, though, jumped to 4.7 percent last year vs. 2.8 percent in 2009.
“It's possible the number of people being paid the minimum wage may be a reflection of the continuing impact of the recession last year (and) ... that employers were not increasing wages,” Abbot said.
I've lived in several states and I have never lived anywhere where in almost every single industry wages were lower than other states. I have also noticed employers are more likely to permanently contract many positions in Texas whereby the employees have no rights, no insurance and where they're pay is reduced because the agency has to be paid.
Yes. Many people move to Texas because there are jobs. However, those jobs overwhelmingly pay LESS than they would if they were found in any other state. The employers in Texas are just very skilled at exploiting the labor market.
Last, Texas is inundated with what I call "Bottom Feeders". These are staffing firms who prop up, and they harass the hell out of the employers to the point that the employers actually put "No agency" statements on their jobs when posted on job boards. These agencies convince many of the companies in Texas that they can drastically reduce cost (for a profit of course) and how do they do that? They do that by cutting pay. They pay their workers close to nothing. This is why traditional businesses that use to hire predominantly permanent workers are now only using these firms. The deal to be able to slash labor costs by half is simply too enticing apparently for these businesses to turn down. And we are talking Fortune 500 companies, Fortune 100 Companies, and companies in the Fortune 10. These are not your small mom and pop companies.
However there is a catch. For some reason, in the state of Texas, I have noticed that people who sign up through these staffing companies are overwhelmingly informed that they are actual employees of the staffing agency and not temporary workers or contract workers. They in turn end up working years for low pay, no insurance, no benefits of any kind, because of that.
These bottom feeders hire DESPERATE PEOPLE to work for them. And it's difficult not to be desperate in a state where almost every major company is doing this. They also exploit the labor market and take these people, offer them a third less than what the company would have paid their own workers had they hired them, and take a cut from each check.
That is why a disproportionate number of the jobs in Texas are contract or temp or low wage work or all three. It is so difficult to get hired permanently at many employers unless you're working in retail. If you are a white male you have a much better chance given what I have personally seen and experienced.
So when the Ms. Helcamp states that the jobs pay minimum wage because of the amount of people who didn't graduate high school or college I call bullshit. You have folks with Master's degrees driving Dart Buses making just a few bucks over minimum wage. I know plenty of folks who finished high school and college and all they can find are temp jobs. Instead of making excuses they need to find out how to encourage these employers to stop taking advantage of people and this labor market and start paying a decent, livable wage.
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