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.
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.