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Idaho Labor Officials: Upward Trend in Idaho Hourly Pay

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In spite of the fact that Idaho lags behind many parts of the U.S. in wages, the Gem State is seeing an uptick in hourly wages, according to new statistics from the Idaho Department of Labor.

“It’s nice to see the economy moving in the right direction,” Bob Uhlenkott, Chief Research Officer at the Idaho Department of Labor told Boise Weekly.

New data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate fewer workers were earning at or below the federal minimum wage between 2013 and 2014. The numbers reveal that Idaho workers reporting such wage earnings decreased from 7.1 to 5.1 percent in that timespan.

Average annual economic growth is currently at approximately 3 percent, according to Uhlenkott, compared to the projected 1.5 percent.

“What is really compelling is that we are finally seeing increasing wages,” says Uhlenkott.

In the immediate aftermath of the Great Recession, economic growth initiatives weren’t making a significantly positive impact on wages in Idaho. Recent data finally suggest that such economic efforts are finally putting upward pressure on hourly earnings in the state.

“Now, the economy is showing signs of life,” adds Uhlenkott.

According to the Occupational Employment Statistic program, data collected by Idaho employers reflect an average hourly wage of $19.12, with a median wage of $14.93. Both of these numbers show an improvement from previous years in statewide hourly earnings.

Uhlenkott pointed to what he said was Idaho's relatively low cost of living. That said, he added that Idaho still lags behind states such as Washington and Oregon, with a state minimum wage reflecting just that of the federal $7.25 per hour.

Another important statistic from the report: Women represent over half of the 21,000 Idahoans earning wages at or below the federal minimum in the 2014. This trend is reflective of the overall global gender gap in wage earnings.

While gender is one of the many factors that account for certain demographics being more likely to earn minimum wages than others, Uhlenkott credits training and education as major indicators of prospective wages.

“All degrees are not created equally,” says Uhlenkott. He added that both the level and type of education play a significant role in wage earning potential. In today’s economy, the quantitative skills obtained from a technically degree carry more weight than ever, said Uhlenkoff.