Low Wages in an Economic Boom Time

* 2.2 million working people are paid the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour or less.
* Approximately another 23 million people are paid between $7.25 and $11 an hour.
* Nearly half (42.4 percent) of working Americans make less than $15 per hour.


The productivity of American workers has roughly doubled since 1968 (the peak of the minimum wage in inflation-adjusted dollars), but workers making the minimum wage today make 25 percent less than they did in 1968, once adjusted to today’s dollars. Even though unemployment has dropped precipitously, sitting well below 5 percent for the last three years, it has not been until recently that wage increases for workers in lower-paying occupations have occurred.2 And much of that growth at the low end of the distribution has come from action on the minimum wage at not the federal level, but the state and local level.

Making the Economic Case for a $15 Minimum Wage