Bringing the Economy Home

As Idaho’s Neighboring States Increase Minimum Wage, More Workers Could Seek Jobs Out Of State

Three of Idaho’s neighboring states increased their minimum wage this week, while Idaho’s rate remains at the federal minimum.

Montana, Oregon and Washington increased their hourly minimums. Now, all but two western states have higher hourly wages than Idaho.

U.S. Department of Labor

Click on the map to enlarge.

Idaho’s minimum wage has been $7.25 since 2009. According to the Idaho Department of Labor, about 5 percent, or 19,000 Idahoans, earned $7.25 an hour in 2011. As of January 1, the minimum hourly wage in neighboring Montana is $7.80.  In Washington it’s $9.19, and in Oregon it’s $8.95.

In a border city like Coeur d’Alene, which is an easy 30 minute drive from Spokane, Washington, the impact of a higher hourly minimum has the potential to be felt more.  Idaho Department of Labor regional economist Alivia Metts says the Coeur d’Alene-Spokane wage gap continues to increase. “The hourly median wage [in Kootenai County] is nearly 20 percent less than Spokane [County] for all occupations,” says Metts.

Metts says the nearly $2-an-hour higher minimum wage in Washington could push more Idahoans to look for work over the border, or even move out of state. Washington workers don’t pay income tax, she points out, and there isn’t a sales tax on food as there is in Idaho.

On the business side, Metts says most companies don’t look to state minimum wage rates as a factor when deciding where to locate. She says many of the businesses that move to Idaho are paying more than minimum wage.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Idaho’s median hourly wage in 2011 was $14.51.


  • Justin W Howe

    Well there ya have it; one less incentive to stay in Idaho (as if there were very many to begin with). There are more minimum-wage jobs in my native Oregon than there are in Idaho; this fact alone indicates that there should be a huge wave of minimum-wage earners moving to Oregon or Washington to earn between $1.60-$2.10 an hour MORE than what they are earning currently. Or they’ll just stay behind and piss and moan about how liberal politics are destroying America… *sigh*.

    Thanks to “liberal politics”, Oregonians and Washingtonians (among other forward-thinking states) enjoy some of the highest minimum wages in this country, have the freedom to choose who they want to marry regardless of gender or orientation, have either legalized (Washington), or greatly reduced penalties for cannabis possession and consumption (Oregon), which is one of our fundamental freedoms (to consume and say what we please, restriced only by our own consciences and moral codes). They can also fight corrupt corporations through their Union or raise any complaint or concern that they may have and have it resolved. Right-to-work states (such as Idaho) have no such support for their workers. There’s a long list of freedoms and rights that denizens of states with “liberal leanings” enjoy that “red states” do not, and I will not get into those here.

    Red states have a “love it or leave it” attitude, but Blue states have a “how can we make our state better?” attitude. Looks like there’ll be a lot of folks who are “leaving it” this coming year! I’m coming home, Oregon!

    • tiernan

      but you do realize in states like oregon or washington cost of living is more expensive such as housing as one example. my father lives in oregon and housing is much more in oregon then in idaho

      • Where are you talking about in Oregon? I’m sorry but the whole state is not like that. You’re thinking about the Portland metro area or Hood River. Besides that, minimum wage has NO effect on cost of living. In fact, it’s the other way around; consider the fact that Oregon is one of may states that index the minimum wage to keep up with the cost of living; this means that Oregon’s minimum wage corresponds to the cost of living in Oregon since the last minimum wage increase. We’re due for another one, apparently. When that happens, things should even out. Oregon and Washington have a very sizeable influx of people moving in at the moment, which tends to increase property values since big spenders are moving in with them. Large companies and the large salaries that go with them exist in both Portland and Seattle, and their suburbs. This causes the housing prices to skyrocket. This is happening on a smaller scale in Hood River, OR where I’m from. Lastly, minimum wage in Oregon is about $9.50 an hour, I think, so if you worked full-time that’s $1520 a month before taxes. If you rented a house for the average price of about $550 for a two-bedroom in smaller towns and suburbs that would leave you $670 a month for everything else. If your bills came to $300 a month that would leave you with $370. Depending on how much you have left over for a food budget, that should be just fine, although if you have a budget shortfall, Oregon’s excellent social services programs which are well-funded and strongly upheld will help you with food, housing, clothing, or any other need you may have if you cannot spare the money. Can you say the same thing about Idaho? No; it’s a pain to get public assistance there and when you do you are treated like trash; trust me, I’ve had to be on public assistance before to supplement my meager income and my wife’s meager income.

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