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Idaho was tied for seventh-highest in the nation for its percentage of hourly wage-earners making the federal minimum wage or less in 2017.

The data, released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, show Idaho tied with North Carolina; in both states, 3.3 percent of workers made $7.25 per hour or less, compared to a national average of 2.3 percent.

The figures are much higher for women working in Idaho. While just 1.7 percent of Idaho’s male hourly workers earned $7.25 an hour or less in 2017, 4.6 percent of Idaho’s female hourly workers fell at or below that mark.

Idaho had the highest rate of minimum wage workers in the nation in 2012, at 7.7 percent, an unwanted distinction that Idaho political leaders bemoaned. The state’s rank has been mostly dropping since then, with Idaho ranking second after Tennessee in 2013; and ninth in both 2014 and 2015. Idaho ranked fifth in 2016, when it had 4.6 percent of its workers falling at or below that mark.

The move back down to seventh place comes as most of Idaho’s surrounding states are seeing low numbers of workers earning the federal minimum wage or less. Both Washington and Montana had just eight-tenths of a percent of their workers fall into that category, putting them among the four lowest states in the nation. Oregon was at 1.2 percent; Nevada, 1.4 percent; and Utah, 2.4 percent.

Matthew Insco, an economist with the western region office of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, said the highest percentages in the 2017 report were mostly in southern states, with Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee all coming in around 4 percent. The lowest were mostly in western states, with California, Washington, Montana and Minnesota falling below 1 percent.

“Industry and occupation make every state a little different,” Insco said.

Insco noted that the percentage for Idaho’s female hourly workers, while high, has dropped markedly over the past decade. In 2010, almost 10 percent of Idaho women earned the federal minimum wage or less. “Now it’s down to 4.6 percent,” he said.

Nationally, 2 percent of men and 3 percent of women earning hourly wages made the federal minimum wage or less in 2017.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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