07/25/08 — Hike in minimum wage not problem for most

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Hike in minimum wage not problem for most

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on July 25, 2008 1:58 PM


Assistant News Editor

Minimum-wage employees in Wayne County should see a little more in their paychecks next week as a new federal wage floor went into effect Thursday.

But the jump -- $832 a year -- won't be quite as large in North Carolina as perhaps elsewhere, with the current state minimum wage sitting at $6.15 an hour, and the increase only raising the federal rate from $5.85 to $6.55 an hour.

More to the point, explained local North Carolina Employment Security Commission Manager Bill Pate, is the fact in Wayne County, very few workers are actually making the minimum wage. Most, he said, are making at least $7 an hour. The county average -- although skewed because of several high-paying jobs -- is about $15.45 an hour.

"You see some in the service industry, especially fast food, but it's not really prevalent because if you're paying minimum wage, you're not finding anybody because everybody else is paying more than that," he said. "I don't see this having a real big impact. Not many jobs are paying that lower end."

Right now, he explained, the only real way it might have an effect is if higher-paid employees start seeking more compensation as they learn that the base floor has moved.

"It may have some creep on everybody," Pate said.

Otherwise, he continued, the only way other effects will be felt is if the economy continues to slump and employers can't afford to keep higher minimum wage employees on, especially once the federal rate increases again in July 2009 to $7.25 -- the third and final mark set by the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007.

But even then, Pate explained, it's not likely to hurt a wide population.

"If the economy hasn't recovered by then it may have an impact. It may squeeze some people out (of jobs). And a lot of those are your working students, who are just trying to get a little work experience and make a little money," he said. "(The increase) does have kind of a double-edge effect."