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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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News Release

OPA News Release: [02/27/2013]
Contact Name: Jason Surbey
Phone Number: (202) 693-4668
Release Number: 13-0377-NAT

Statement by acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris on America’s workers earning at or below the federal minimum wage

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics has released a report titled "Characteristics of Minimum Wage Workers: 2012." The report shows that 75.3 million workers in the United States age 16 and over were paid at hourly rates, representing 59 percent of all wage and salary workers. Among those paid by the hour, 1.6 million earned exactly the prevailing federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. About 2 million had wages below the federal minimum.

The report also shows that nearly one-half of those earning at or below the federal minimum wage is at least 25 years old, and women make up nearly two-thirds of those earning at or below the federal minimum wage. More than a third of those earning at or below the current federal minimum wage is working full-time. Finally, 15 percent of those earning at or below the federal minimum wage is African-American, and one-fifth is Latino or Hispanic.

Acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris has issued the following statement about the report:

"Workers earning the federal minimum wage have not had a raise in nearly four years. As the report makes clear, many are working adults with full-time jobs, and we know that some low-wage workers are holding down more than one job.

"It is an outrage that someone who works full time should have to raise his or her family in poverty. Ensuring hard work is rewarded is the right thing to do for these workers and our economy. That's why the president has called for raising the federal minimum wage to $9.00 per hour by 2015, and indexing it to inflation thereafter. The BLS report looked at only those currently earning at or below the federal minimum wage. According to the White House Council of Economic Advisers, raising the federal minimum wage will result in nearly 15 million low-wage workers getting a raise in their take-home pay. That money will be spent locally at the grocery store, to buy school supplies and clothing for children, to pay rent and utility bills, and in many other ways to support families.

"In fiscal year 2012, the department's Wage and Hour Division found minimum wage violations in more than 12,500 investigations — more than a third of all cases concluded by the agency that fiscal year. These cases resulted in $35.2 million in back minimum wages for more than 107,000 workers, more than twice what we recovered in similar investigations in fiscal year 2009. Unfortunately, our ability to enforce the law and protect our most vulnerable workers will be threatened if Congress fails to act to avert the coming sequester.

"Over the next few weeks, our economy, national security and services that are important to middle-class families will be affected by automatic, arbitrary and irresponsible cuts if Congress fails to act. The president has offered a compromise plan. Congress must act immediately."

Read the BLS report at http://www.bls.gov/cps/minwage2012.htm.

Editor's note: The previous version of this statement incorrectly reported the number of women earning at or below the federal minimum wage.