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The rise and fall of the minimum wage

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Snapshot for February 7, 2001.

The rise and fall of the minimum wage
As inflation continues to slowly erode its value, the minimum wage is again being considered by Congress. Currently at $5.15 an hour, it was increased most recently from $4.25 in two steps in 1996 and 1997. The real value of today’s minimum wage is 30% below its peak in 1968, and 24% below its level in 1979 (see figure below).

Figure 1

A proposal currently before Congress would raise the minimum wage by $1.50 in three steps, to $6.65 in 2003. If wages grow to keep pace with inflation, by the time an increase is fully implemented in 2003, the minimum wage would be equal to $6.14 in 2000 dollars and just 5.8% of the workforce (representing 6.9 million workers in the 2000 workforce) would receive a pay increase.

Source: EPI Issue Brief #149: Step Up, Not Out — The case for raising the federal minimum wage for workers in every state.

This week’s Snapshot by EPI economist Heather Boushey.

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