EUGENE, Ore. — The economy was one of the issues President Barack Obama talked about Tuesday night in his State of the Union Address, specifically, raising the minimum wage for some workers and trying to bridge the gap between how much men and women make. In his speech, the President talked about how upward mobility has stalled and in announcing his decision to raise the minimum wage for new federal contract workers, he urged congress to restore that opportunity to Americans by following his lead for all workers.
President Obama says, “Say, ‘Yes, give America a Raise. Give ‘em a raise.’”
And a raise new federal contract workers will get. That group will new be paid nearly three dollars more than the current federal minimum wage, making their wage $10.10. While some scoff at the limited move, others say a change is still a change.
Oregon Economic Forum Director Tim Duy says, “It would have relatively minor impacts, because it would only be affecting new employees and not affecting the realm of existing employees.”
The increase is only a dollar more than the current Oregon minimum wage and though only about 6% of Oregon workers get paid a minimum wage, the impact may be felt in another way according to staff at the Oregon Employment Office.
State Employment Economist Nick Beleiciks says, “For firms that are looking to get the cheapest possible labor, they may look to states that have a lower minimum wage than Oregon does. So if the federal minimum wage is brought up closer to Oregon’s minimum wage, it’ll level the playing field.”
The President also tackled the issue of gender gap when it comes to pay, calling on businesses to bring greater equality in that arena. Some believe that is something that the minimum wage change the President is implementing could also help do.
“Nationally, about 6% of women had minimum wage jobs and only about 3% of men have minimum wage jobs. So, when we’re talking about who’s affected by the minimum wage, it’s going to affect women more than men.”
Overall, local economists we spoke to say what the true impact of wage changes on employment are hard to gauge because those changes are often so small and that trying to determine this particular impact on Oregon is even harder since the increase is only a dollar more than the state’s current minimum wage.