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Fewer W.Va. workers making minimum wage or less

John Raby, Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- The proportion of West Virginia workers paid an hourly wage at or below the federal minimum standard declined in 2012, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released Wednesday.

There were 453,000 workers being paid hourly rates in West Virginia last year. The bureau said the proportion of them earning the current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and those hourly workers earning less was split at 13,000 apiece.

The portion of workers earning at or below the minimum wage standard in West Virginia fell from 7.4 percent to 5.7 percent last year, fueled by a 1.4 percentage point decrease in workers earning exactly the minimum wage.

Still, that was above the national average and tied with Nebraska and Pennsylvania for the 15th-highest proportion among the states. Idaho had the highest rate at 7.7 percent, followed by Texas, 7.5; and Oklahoma, 7.2.

The bureau said 65 percent, or 17,000, of the workers in West Virginia at or below the standard were female, down from 68 percent the previous year.

Overall, hourly employees in West Virginia earned an average of $12.92 per hour in 2012, up from $12.78 the year before. The 2012 national average was $12.80.

The average hourly rate last year for men in West Virginia was $14.77, up 23 cents from 2011. For women, the 2012 rate of $11.38 was up 46 cents from 2011 and 82 cents higher than 2010.

Both were higher than the national average. Nationally, men earned an average hourly rate of $13.88 and women earned $11.99 in 2012.

The portion of West Virginia workers being paid at or below the federal minimum wage peaked at 40,000 in 2010 after hitting a low of 14,000 in 2006. The bureau first made such data available in 2000. The percentage of state workers earning minimum wage had exceeded those making below the minimum in 2010 and 2011 before evening out in 2012.

The bureau noted that West Virginia workers earning wages below the federal minimum does not necessarily indicate violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act because of exemptions to the minimum wage provisions of the law.

The state's minimum wage has been set at $7.25 an hour since July 2008. It was raised to $6.55 per hour in July 2007, $5.85 per hour in July 2006, and $5.15 per hour in September 1998.

The federal minimum wage was last raised in 2009, also to $7.25. The proportion of U.S. hourly workers earning that or less was 4.7 percent.