Variation in workers paid Federal minimum wage by region

December 11, 2003

Differences among States in the share of workers earning the Federal minimum wage or less are a function of the occupational distribution and prevailing wages in each State, as well as of the existence of a wide range of minimum wage provisions at the State level.

Share of workers paid hourly rates with earnings at or below Federal minimum wage ($5.15), U.S. and regions, 2002
[Chart data—TXT]

In particular, some States set minimum wage rates above the Federal minimum, currently $5.15 an hour.

In 2002, 3.0 percent of U.S. wage and salary workers who were paid hourly rates earned the Federal minimum wage of $5.15 or less. The South recorded the highest percentage of workers earning in this range, 3.7 percent, while the West registered the lowest share, 1.8 percent.

Among the States, West Virginia recorded the highest proportion of hourly workers paid $5.15 per hour or less (5.6 percent). The State of Washington had the smallest proportion of such workers (0.7 percent).

These data are derived from the Current Population Survey. It should be noted that the presence of a sizable number of workers with reported wages below the minimum does not necessarily indicate violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, as there are exemptions, such as tip credits, to the minimum wage provision of the law. Also, among those with reported wages below the minimum in 2002, almost 500,000 reported earning exactly $5.00 per hour; to some extent, this may reflect rounding in the responses of survey participants. Find out more in "Proportion of workers in selected pay ranges, by region and State," by Marie-Claire Guillard, Monthly Labor Review, September 2003.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Variation in workers paid Federal minimum wage by region on the Internet at (visited September 29, 2016).


Recent editions of Spotlight on Statistics

  • A look at healthcare spending, employment, pay, benefits, and prices
    As one of the largest U.S. industries, healthcare is steadily growing to meet the needs of an increasing population with an increasing life expectancy. This Spotlight looks at how much people spend on healthcare, current and projected employment in the industry, employer-provided healthcare benefits, healthcare prices, and pay for workers in healthcare occupations.

  • Employment and Wages in Healthcare Occupations
    Healthcare occupations are a significant percentage of U.S. employment. Some of the largest and highest paying occupations are in healthcare. This Spotlight examines employment and wages for healthcare occupations.

  • Fifty years of looking at changes in peoples lives
    Longitudinal surveys help us understand long-term changes, such as how events that happened when a person was in high school affect labor market success as an adult.