SearchHomeMenuSign UpDonate

A quarter-million Oregon jobs now pay more, though still not enough

Commentary
July 1, 2019By Audrey Mechling

Today, more than a quarter-million jobs in Oregon pay more, thanks to a scheduled increase in the minimum wage. Though this is a welcome increase in pay for thousands of Oregonians, we should also recognize that it falls short of what workers need to make ends meet.

Minimum-wage workers across Oregon will see their wages go up by 50 cents per hour. For a minimum-wage employee working full time, the wage increase will mean about $1,040 more in annual income.

Oregon’s minimum wage varies by region, the result of legislation enacted in 2016 that set up a three-tier structure. On the first of July, the hourly minimum wage will rise to $12.50 in the Portland metro area, to $11 in non-urban counties, and to $11.25 in the rest of Oregon.

Statewide, this increase will affect over one in 10 jobs.

In some rural counties — Harney and Malheur — the new rates will apply to more than one in six jobs. While they remain subject to a lower minimum wage, rural counties will see the largest share of their workers taking home additional income due to the boost in pay. Workers in nearly 14 percent of jobs in rural Oregon counties will see their paycheck increase.

This wage increase will help the many families living in poverty despite the fact that they work. The extra wages will help them cover basic necessities like food and transportation.

Still, the minimum wage remains inadequate when it comes to providing economic security for workers. Families that spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing fall in the federal government’s definition of being “cost burdened,” meaning that they may struggle to pay for other necessities such as food, transportation, and medical care. Even after the new wage increase, a one-bedroom apartment in most of the state will eat up more than more than 30 percent of the income of a full-time minimum wage worker.

While the minimum wage increase is worth celebrating, there is still more work to be done to provide economic security for workers. The Oregon legislature should take additional steps to boost the take-home pay of workers, including increasing the state Earned Income Tax Credit and stamping out wage-theft. Ultimately, we must ensure that every full-time worker is able to secure a safe and decent standard of living.