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Does Perry’s “Texas Miracle” Have a “Minimum Wage” Problem?

It’s a testament to Rick Perry’s strength as a candidate that the left is already feverishly mounting a campaign to try to tear down his jobs record. The latest anti-Perry talking point is that the “Texas Miracle” is bunk because many of the jobs created in the state during the past year are minimum wage positions, and therefore, less significant than high-paying jobs. The Huffington Post’s Jason Cherkis reports:

The miracle is that anyone would call minimum-wage jobs a miracle. Of the all the jobs in Texas created last year, 37 percent paid at or below minimum wage — and the state leads the nation in total minimum wage workers, according to a recent New York Times report.

But this isn’t necessarily unique to Texas.

Quite the opposite – research actually suggests it’s a national trend. According to a July study by the liberal National Employment Law Project, 73 percent of nation-wide job growth during the past year has been in low-wage occupations. The New York Times reports:

The report by the National Employment Law Project, a liberal research and advocacy group, found that while 60 percent of the jobs lost during the downturn were in midwage occupations, 73 percent of the jobs added since the recession ended had been in lower-wage occupations, like cashier, stocking clerk or food preparation worker.

According to the report, “The Good Jobs Deficit,” the number of jobs in midwage and high-wage occupations remains significantly below the prerecession peak, while the number of jobs in lower-wage occupations has climbed back close to its former peak.

As you can imagine, this report actually got a lot of attention from liberal publications when it was released last month. And yet it hasn’t been cited in the hit-pieces about the percentage of minimum-wage jobs created in Texas.

Another fact that hasn’t been mentioned: the number of minimum wage jobs was actually decreasing steadily in Texas between 1998 and 2006. But when the federal minimum wage was raised from 2007 through 2009, many jobs previously considered above minimum wage in Texas automatically became classified as minimum wage.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes this in its recent report on lower-wage workers in Texas, and also points out that the number of workers making minimum wage increased in the state as well as the nation:

With the exception of 2003, the number of hourly-paid workers at or below the Federal minimum wage declined steadily in Texas from 1998 to 2006. (See chart 1.) However, annual increases in the Federal minimum wage from 2007 through 2009 contributed to increased numbers and higher percentages of workers in the State receiving pay at or below the mandated level. Although the Federal minimum wage was unchanged in 2010, the number of workers with pay at or below the minimum wage increased in both the State and the nation.

This might explain why the Obama campaign has avoided attacking Perry’s jobs record on the minimum wage issue so far. It’s true there may have been a lot of lower-paying jobs created in Texas since the recession ended — but the same also seems true of the job growth nationally.


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