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15,000 workers in Alabama are paid minimum wage or below: report

The number of Alabama workers earning the minimum wage or less increased by 50 percent between 2022 and 2023.

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According to a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2023 about 15,000 workers in Alabama were paid at or below the minimum wage.

Using data from the Current Population Survey, the BLS estimated that approximately 1,000 Alabama workers received the minimum wage and around 14,000 were paid less than the minimum wage.

With only 1.3 percent of Alabama employees working for an hourly wage receiving the minimum wage or below, Alabama was solidly in the middle of the pack as the state with the 28th highest percentage. However, as a region, the South had the highest percentage of workers receiving the minimum wage or less.

The BLS’ report also both confirmed and challenged traditional assumptions about who earns the minimum wage.

Nationwide, 77.7 percent of workers earning the minimum wage or below were employed in service occupations, with 65.9 percent specifically working in food and serving occupations.

Many may view minimum wage jobs as traditionally student jobs, meant for high schoolers and college students. While teenagers and young adults are much more likely to earn the minimum wage, they were not the majority of minimum wage workers. 55.6 percent of workers earning the minimum wage or lower were 25 years or older.

Minimum wage jobs are also usually seen as part time gigs. However, 45.4 percent of people working minimum wage jobs worked more than 35 hours a week. 31.8 percent worked 40 hours or more a week.

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Between 2022 and 2023, there was a significant drop in the number of workers receiving the minimum wage or below, from just over 1 million to 869 thousand, but there was actually a rise in the number in Alabama.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2022 report, only 10,000 workers received the minimum wage or below in Alabama that year, 5,000 less than they estimated did so in 2023.

Alabama remains one of only five states with no state-level minimum wage legislation. Two other states, however, have a minimum wage below $7.25 an hour, which are overridden by the federal minimum wage, and thirteen have a state minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

Alabama is also one of twenty-five states with a local minimum wage preemption law, which prevent local governments from setting their own minimum wages. The preemption law in Alabama was passed in 2016 after Birminghams city council approved a local minimum wage of $10.10 an hour. The local minimum wage never went into effect.

At the federal level, prominent Democrats have repeatedly pushed to raise the federal minimum wage, occasionally with the support of more moderate and populist Republicans. Alabamas Republican members of Congress, however, have been consistent opponents of raising the federal minimum wage.

In a 2021 op-ed, Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville said he heard from folks that recent pushes to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour would severely hamper our small businesses.” When the Raise the Wage Act made it to a vote on the House floor in 2019, Alabama Representatives Gary Palmer, Mo Brooks, Bradley Byrne, Martha Roby, and Mike Rogers all voted no.

Chance Phillips is a reporting intern at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected].

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