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THE IMPACT OF THE MINIMUM WAGE Since January 1993 the American economy has created 21 million new jobs In the last four years labor productivity has grown at a 29 percent annual rate and GDP has grown at a 44 percent annual rate At the same time the underlying core inflation rate in 1999 was 19 percent-the lowest rate since 1965 Recently President Clinton and congressional Republicans are signaling a possible tax compromise that would help people pay for long-term health care save for retirement and give business breaks to absorb a 1 minimum wage increase It would raise the minimum wage by 1 to 615 per hour over a two-year period Background on the Minimum Wage A federal minimum wage of 25 cents per hour 296 in 1999 dollars was first established as a part of the Fail Labor Standards Act of 1938 FLSA Since its inception the federal minimum wage has been increased 19 times and the FLSA has been amended numerous times to expand the workers covered by the minimum wage provision The Figure 1 shows the value of the federal minimum wage from 1938-2000 both in nominal and in inflation-adjusted 1999 dollars And the State minimum wage laws can also differ with regards to converge and overtime pay Ten states and the District of Columbia have minimum wage laws that are higher than the federal level In these states the higher minimum wage standard applies If a state has a lower minimum wage than the federal level employers must pay the federal rate Figure 1 The Federal Minimum Wage 1938-2000 Source US Department of Labor How many Workers would by Affected by an Increase in the Minimum Wage Because the minimum wage is traditionally paid to people just entering the work force the overwhelming majority of minimum wage employees are young singer and childless In fact more than half or 53
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