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Working for Minimum Wage in America

Updated on March 12, 2012

If you have not had to work for the US minimum wage, which is from $7.25 to 8.25 per hour in most states, having to do so will make you feel an impossibility. This impossibility is you barely cover the necessities of life, and it is less than those getting the maximum on unemployment by several hundreds of dollars. It will also anger you when you hear politicians or the wealthy that raising the minimum wage it bad or hurts the economy or they can't afford it. Those people who work for that amount are no doubt thinking, "let's see you work for so little!".

Simple math provides rude awakenings in how little this wage is. $8 hr. x 8hrs = $64 a day x 5 days = $320 a week x 4 wks = $1280 month. In some countries, this may seem like wealth, but in the US, it is below poverty levels at $15,360 a year.

If your average rent is $800, which common, if not lower than average, it would leave $480. But wait, the $1280 a month is gross, taxes would be at least 10%, so your net is actually not more than $1150, maybe less. so, now after rent you have $350. This amount is then divided into other bills: food, water, electricity, cell phone, internet. By the time you pay for utilities and phone\Internet, you might be left with $125-50 for food.

if you have a car payment or other unforeseen expense- you are broke. If you are a home owner with mortgage of $1000+ a month, foreclosure is simply a matter of time.

Many of the unemployed are actually so well educated, like new college grads, new law school grads that have passed the Bar, veteran engineers and more who have a very hard time working for these wages because it is well below what they are use to. Even getting a paltry $10 hr seems like a real windfall. Of course, these people are not going to be hired because HR know these people will not stay and training them is a waste of resources and time when they can hire someone with less education or none, who will stay and value the job.

I have a friend, a recording engineer, who has been doing that for years, making an easy $80K a year. The past few years it came to an end. Recently, he ate his pride and submitted an application for clerk at Kinkos, min. wage, just to defer using savings and 401K. The younger manager looked at him, the application and was impressed. Then, he asked, have you ever worked for the public? My friend smirked in what seemed to be a idiotic question and said, "yes, back in college, 20 yrs ago. I work with people all the time, there is no issue with this. What is it you are looking for?" The HR guy said, "well, you know it can be difficult and stressful". My friend repeated his mantra that he is fast learner, can deal stress and difficult people.

My friend did not get the $8 hr. job. It went to a 18 yr old. According to a friend who worked there, the manager did not want hire someone with high education and past history of making more money than he ever would, because it would be just a temporary job to them. They would quit and he would have to retrain again. This manager had hired "educated, yet unemployed" before with bad outcomes. They quit after training, after a few weeks or of their attitude. It just was not worth it.

The minimum wage should not be less than $15 hr. The reason why the unemployment levels are 16-20% in the US, is in part, because of what happened to my friend.


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    • one2get2no profile image

      Philip Cooper 5 years ago from Olney

      Very interesting hub. I didn't realize the minimum wage in the States was so low.

    • lifelovemystery profile image

      Michelle Orelup 5 years ago from Houston, TX

      I've been looking for work for 8 months. I completely understand.

    • perrya profile image

      perrya 5 years ago

      My point was that, my friend continues on unemployment because he was not hired and could have been had it not been for the manager who had been burned before with those well educated and just needing money. I understand both sides. My friend has dumbed down his resume so he does not appear overly qualified or educated just to have a better chance at some min. wage job.

    • lifelovemystery profile image

      Michelle Orelup 5 years ago from Houston, TX

      I appreciate your hub and I am empathetic to those that survive on minimum wage. I don't necessarily agree that the unemployment rate is so high because of the minimum wage rate. Unemployment is high because of outsourced jobs, the decline of American manufacturing and the current state of fear that companies have in spending money on capital and new hires. It is a time of uncertainty for so many of us. I wish the best for your friend.

    • perrya profile image

      perrya 5 years ago

      I heard that boom state North Dakota they pay $18 hr.

    • Davesworld profile image

      Davesworld 5 years ago from Cottage Grove, MN 55016

      Minimum wages are a double edged sword. Not only is the minimum wage the least that an employer can pay, it is also the most the employer is required to pay to get entry-level workers.

      Now the truth is that workers at McDonald's around here get over minimum as an entry-level wage and that is probably true nationwide. Has been true for some time. My daughter, who turns 32 tomorrow, while she was in college worked at Wendy's and Blockbuster and never worked for minimum wage.