Map shows states with most low-wage workers hit hard by record inflation

FILE – In this Wednesday, April 3, 2019, file photo, a tip box is filled with dollar bills, in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

(NEXSTAR) – As inflation grows, and everything from gas to food to housing gets more expensive, your income effectively shrinks as your spending power weakens. It’s especially troubling for low-wage workers trying to get by on minimum wage or living below the poverty line.

Many states hiked their minimum wages in 2022, but the minimum wage isn’t rising fast enough to keep up with the increased cost of living. Several states still have their minimum wages set at the federal minimum of $7.25, which was last increased in 2009.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, the spending power of that $7.25/hour has already dropped dramatically since 2009. In 2021 dollars, $7.25 was more like $9.17 per hour in 2009. (The inflation that’s happened since June of last year has made the difference even more dramatic.)

Workers whose wages aren’t increasing this year are hit hardest by the rising price of goods. Oxfam America created an interactive map that shows where low-wage workers are concentrated in the U.S. On the map, the states shaded in darker red have the most workers making less than $15/hour.

You can also see how race, age, sex and family status affect people’s wages state-by-state.

Last week, the government reported that surging gas, food and housing costs pushed consumer prices up 7.9% in February from a year earlier — the sharpest spike since 1982.

Prices are rising at the fastest rate in generations, and have already proven many economists wrong by continuing to rise far longer than they expected last year. If households across the country start to see high, persistent inflation as the new normal, they could ramp up their purchases in hopes of buying ahead of further price increases. That would make the expectation of higher prices itself another trigger for high inflation.

Surveys say that’s not the case yet, but worrying signs are growing as gasoline costs hit records on the back of surging oil prices.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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