Bringing the Economy Home


Bottom Rung: Living On Low Wages In Idaho


The share of Idaho workers earning minimum wage has grown from 5 percent in 2011 to 7.7 percent in 2012. The growth has put Idaho in the top spot for the largest share of minimum wage workers in the country.

How did that happen? And what’s being done to reverse the trend?

Our series Bottom Rung will try to answer those questions, and introduce you to the people living on low wages and consuming Idaho services, and experts who monitor these trends.

Latest Posts

It’s More Expensive To ‘Get By’ In Rural Idaho Than Boise

It costs more to get by in rural Idaho than it does in Boise, the state’s population center. That’s according to the Economic Policy Institute’s family budget calculator. A family of four living in Boise needs $56,491 per year. A family of four in rural Idaho needs $58,071. Here’s a comparison of what it costs […]

The Minimum Wage In Idaho, 75 Years Later

President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the U.S. minimum wage 75 years ago today. On June 25, 1938, Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act. Since the minimum wage was created, it’s been increased federally at least 25 times. At least 18 states have increased the wage above the federal minimum, but not in Idaho. Idaho’s […]

Initiative Campaign Launches To Raise Idaho’s Minimum Wage

A voter initiative campaign has launched in North Idaho to raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9.80. The Spokesman-Review reports the wage would phase up over the next four years if the ballot initiative is successful. Idaho has the largest percentage of minimum wage workers in the country. Plus, there are […]

Bottom Rung: Readers And Listeners Share Their Stories

StateImpact Idaho recently took a run at a big issue: the state’s low wages and its comparatively high fraction of workers who earn the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The full series, called “Bottom Rung,” is available here. Many readers and listeners have weighed in, in some cases sending their own stories. For example, […]

Bottom Rung: Idaho Has More Minimum Wage Workers Than 18 States

We know Idaho has the largest percentage of minimum wage workers in the country; 7.7 percent of Idaho’s hourly workforce earns $7.25 or less. The same data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics also show Idaho has more minimum-wage earners, in raw numbers, than 18 other states. Many of those states have fewer people living […]

Bottom Rung: The Politics Of Increasing Idaho’s Minimum Wage

As in many states, Idaho’s minimum wage hasn’t changed since 2009, when the hourly minimum was boosted by the federal government. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found 31,000 hourly Idaho workers earned the minimum wage, $7.25, or less in 2012. That’s a 63 percent increase from 2011. The data doesn’t tell us who these […]

Bottom Rung: Why One Idaho Border Business Chose Washington

The border between Washington and Idaho is like a petri dish for what the minimum wage does to the economy. That’s where two extremes meet. Idaho has the federal minimum wage: $7.25 an hour. Meanwhile, Washington’s is nearly $2 more. At $9.19, Washington has the highest minimum wage in the nation. You might expect that […]

Bottom Rung: Idaho’s Expanding Call Center Industry

Call center jobs have boomed in Idaho. The industry has added thousands of jobs in the state over the last decade. EMSI, a Moscow, Idaho-based company that analyzes employment and economic data, projects that growth will continue in the near-term. Data Source: Economic Modeling Specialists Intl.

Bottom Rung: Why Building A Strong Idaho Economy Takes Public Investment

Bob Lokken, CEO of Boise-based WhiteCloud Analytics, is three years into building his new company. It designs software for health care professionals with the aim of allowing doctors and others to interrogate vast amounts of health care data. Lokken founded it after his previous company, ProClarity Corporation, was bought by Microsoft. Recently, he showed me […]

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