AP Business Writer
RICHMOND, Va. - The portion of hourly workers in Virginia being paid at or below the federal minimum wage fell in 2011, but that number has climbed steadily over the past 10 years to around 7 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday.
Nearly 1.7 million Virginia workers age 16 and over were paid at hourly rates in 2011, and 7.1 percent, or 121,000, of them were paid at or below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. That's down from 7.9 percent, or 136,000, the year before, the federal agency said.
However, that number is much larger than it was in 2001, when 2.5 percent of hourly workers were paid at or below the minimum wage. The federal minimum wage was last raised in 2009, to $7.25 per hour.
Of the 73.9 million American workers paid at hourly rates last year, 5.2 percent earned wages at or below the federal minimum wage. Virginia tied for the seventh-highest in the country for the proportion of hourly workers being paid at or below the minimum wage in 2011, the agency said.
In Virginia, 55 percent of the workers being paid at or below the federal minimum wage last year were women, while the remaining 45 percent were men.
Overall, hourly employees in Virginia earned an average of $12.20 per hour in 2011, up from $12.13 the year before. That compares with a national average of $12.71 in 2011. The average hourly rates for men and women in Virginia last year were $13.36 and $11.48, respectively. Nationally, men earned an average of $13.80 per hour, while women earned $11.98.
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.
Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov
Michael Felberbaum can be reached at http://twitter.com/MLFelberbaum.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)