Mountain State Min. Wage $1/Hour in ’69

West Virginia’s minimum wage has increased by $6.25 since 1969 when it was $1 per hour, according to the West Virginia Division of Labor.

Legislators may increase the state’s $7.25 per hour minimum wage for the first time in six years. They are considering raising the wage by $1.50 during the next three years, which would make the wage $8.75 by 2017. In 2007, the minimum wage was increased from $6.55 to the current wage of $7.25 per hour.

According to the DOL, after 1969, the minimum wage was increased by 20 cents nearly every year, with the exception of 1970, until 1976 when it reached $2.20. Then, in 1981 the wage was increased by 50 cents to $2.75 per hour. A 30-cent increase was approved in 1982 making the wage $3.05. There was a four-year break until 1986 when another 30-cent raise was put in place, hiking the wage to $3.35 per hour.

Six years later in 1992, the wage was increased again – this time by 90 cents to $4.25 per hour. After a five-year break, legislators raised the minimum wage to $4.75 – a 50-cent increase – in 1997. A year later in 1998, it was raised 40 cents to $5.15 an hour.

It would be another eight years before legislators would hike the wage again in 2006 by 70 cents, making it $5.85 per hour. In 2007, another 70-cent raise was approved, increasing the wage to $6.55. And in 2008 – the last time the state’s minimum wage was increased – another 70-cent increase was approved, raising the wage to its current $7.25 per hour, which is the same as the federal minimum wage.

Some may wonder who actually makes $7.25 per hour. Historically, fast food service workers have earned just the minimum wage. According to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average wage of such workers in the state – 21,640 in West Virginia – was $8.26 per hour in 2012, which is the year of the latest statistics available. For all food preparation and related workers in the state – more than 64,000 in West Virginia – the average wage was listed at $9.17 per hour in 2012. And the average annual wage for food workers was listed at little more than $19,000.

Of the 710,540 workers in West Virginia, 13,000 people are paid the minimum wage of $7.25, according to the bureau. A breakdown of what jobs are included in that number is not available, however. Taking into account all the occupations in the state, the average wage is $17.84 per hour and the average annual salary is $37,100.

Bob Bodzenski, owner of Hardee’s, 855 National Road, Wheeling, said he understands the minimum wage hasn’t been raised for awhile, but he said doing so will make it more difficult for the small businessman.

“From a management standpoint, it’s added cost for labor, payroll taxes and workers’ compensation,” Bodenski said. “It’s harder on the small business people. The majority of my workers are above the minimum wage.”

Bodzenski said of his 25 employees, about five are making minimum wage. Many of his workers are high school and college aged and start out at $7.25, but after 90 days they get a raise.

“For most of them, this is their first job,” he said.

Joe Jarvis, data analyst for WorkForce West Virginia, said his group’s data is gleaned from BLS’ current population survey. It is a monthly survey conducted by the federal government at the state level.

“A sample of households is surveyed state by state to create, among other data, the monthly civilian labor force, total employment, total unemployment and an unemployment rate,” Jarvis said.