Oregon’s Minimum Wage Rate Schedule and the Mid-Valley

by Michael Doughty

December 2, 2020

In 2016, the Oregon Legislature established a schedule of minimum wage rate increases. On July 1, 2020, the minimum wage in the Mid-Valley counties increased $0.75 to $12.00 per hour, but determining the overall impact of this increase has been complicated by COVID-19. While it may take several years to fully comprehend how the minimum rate changes have impacted the economy, we do have some estimates of how the minimum wage rate changes have impacted employees.
For the third quarter of 2019, the Oregon Employment Department estimated that 6.6 percent of Oregon workers were paid minimum wage. In the Mid-Valley, Marion County had the lowest percent of workers making minimum wage, 5.4 percent, while Polk County had the largest share of workers being paid minimum wage, 7.4 percent.
The industry with the highest number of workers making minimum wage was the same for Oregon and the four Mid-Valley counties, leisure and hospitality. For the Mid-Valley, 6,620 workers in this industry made minimum wage or less in third quarter 2019. That is 22.1 percent of people employed in that industry. Data for the number of minimum wage workers for 2020 will be available sometime around spring of 2021.
Unfortunately, this is the same industry which was most affected by measures enacted to combat the spread of COVID-19. At the height of job losses due to COVID-19, the counties of the Mid-Valley lost between 30 percent and 50 percent of jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry.
COVID-19 has made life more difficult for people living in the Mid-Valley, especially those making the least amount of money. The increase in the minimum wage will, at least marginally, offset some of that pain. The data on minimum wage earners suggest a large number of Oregonians are taking home more money than they would have without the increase. Until the data counting the number of Oregonians making minimum wage in 2020 is available, we will not know how exactly how many people have benefited from the July 2020 increase.

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