Federal Minimum Wage at $7.25/Hour – Chart of the Day

In case you forgot, today, July 24, 2009, the Federal minimum wage goes up to $7.25/hour from last year’s $6.55/hour.

Following is a plot of historical Federal minimum wages from 1939 to 2009 (the blue line). In 1939, the minimum wage was only 30 cents. The next adjustment didn’t come until 1945 when the minimum wage was increased to 40 cents. Since then the government has changed the minimum wage regularly, especially between 1968 and 1981, when the wage was increased almost annually. The longest gap was between 1997 and 2007. In 2007, the rate went up to $5.85/hour from $5.15/hour in 1997.

Also shown in the following plots are two inflation adjusted minimum wages (the inflation data is from Bureau of Labor Statistics): The red line is based the 1939 wage and the green line is based on the 1968 wage. As you can see, if the minimum wage is adjusted based the wage of 1939 (30 cents), then the actual wage is much higher than the inflation adjusted one (the wage would be $4.64 in 2009). However, if the wage is adjusted based on the 1968 wage ($1.15), then the inflation adjusted wage actually matches the real wage pretty well.

Historical Federal Minimum Wage

While the increase in Federal minimum wage will help millions of workers who earn minimum wages from their jobs, there are quite some debates on whether such an increase comes at the right time or not and whether it will help or hurt the economy. Supporters of the increase say that as many people are struggling to meet ends need in this deep recession, the increase will help millions to pay their bills and the wage raise will boost consumption thus help the economy. For people who say the increase comes at a really bad time, the argument is since many business owners have already been hit badly by the financial crisis and economic downturn, the increase in minimum wage can only put more burden on businesses which may reduce work hours or fire workers to lower cost, eventually hurting those people it intends to protect and the economy as well.

So what do you think? Does the increase in minimum wage come at a good time? Will it help or hurt the economy that has lost millions of jobs since the recession began?

[poll=16]

*Data sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics and Wikipedia.

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5 Responses to “Federal Minimum Wage at $7.25/Hour – Chart of the Day”

  1. mbhunter |  Jul 25, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    Hmmmm … connecting the data with lines on the chart is misleading.

    The increases in the real minimum wage are instantaneous (enacted by law). In between the increases, the inflation-adjusted wage should generally fall, due to devaluation of the dollar.

    But to answer your question, I think it hurts the economy. Wage controls stifle employment because businesses cannot legally hire workers below minimum wage, even if the workers are willing to work for less than minimum wage.

  2. mbhunter |  Jul 25, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    OK, I didn’t quite get what you were plotting, either.

    The red data represent the 1939 minimum wage adjusted for inflation, and the green data represent the 1968 minimum wage adjusted for inflation, correct?

  3. Orguy |  Jul 26, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    This helps the economy, especiallly at this time. Consumer spending has been in free fall. Providing more income to workers, especially lower income workers, can only help cushion this free fall. Free falling consumer spending is what’s stifling employment.

  4. tall girl |  Jul 29, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    I hope minimum wage increase will help someone. Full time jobs would be nice too, so many part time jobs out there.

  5. Federal Minimum Wage |  Dec 11, 2009 at 2:24 am

    This helps the economy, especiallly at this time. Consumer spending has been in free fall. While the increase in Federal minimum wage will help millions of workers who earn minimum wages from their jobs.