RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- The proportion of Virginia workers paid an hourly wage at or below the federal minimum standard declined in 2012, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released Wednesday.
Of the about 1.8 million Virginia workers paid at hourly rates last year, 6.8 percent, were being paid at or below the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, down from 7.1 percent in 2011.
The bureau said that of the about 123,000 being paid at or below the minimum wage in Virginia last year, 55 percent, or about 68,000, were women, while the remaining were men.
Virginia's share of hourly workers being paid at or below the minimum wage, ranked it sixth highest in the country. Idaho had the highest rate at 7.7 percent, followed by Texas, 7.5; and Oklahoma, 7.2.
Of the 75.3 million American workers paid at hourly rates last year, 4.8 percent earned wages at or below the federal minimum wage, the bureau said.
The new information comes amid discussions on raising the federal minimum wage, which was last raised in 2009. President Barack Obama has proposed raising it from $7.25 an hour to $9.
Overall, hourly employees in Virginia earned an average of $12.73 per hour in 2012, up from $12.20 the year before. That compares with a national average of $12.80 in 2012.
The average hourly rates for men and women in Virginia last year were $13.80 and $11.96, respectively. Nationally, men earned an average of $13.88 per hour, while women earned $11.99.
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 Bureau of Labor Statistics noted.
Michael Felberbaum can be reached at https://twitter.com/MLFelberbaum.