Study: One in Four Private Sector Workers Earn Less Than $10 an Hour

The last increase in the federal minimum wage was passed into law four years ago today, but the current minimum wage falls far short of meeting the needs of the average worker. To match the buying power of the 1968 minimum wage, for instance, today’s would need to be increased to $10.55 an hour.

And yet, more than a quarter of America’s private sector workers make less than $10 an hour, according to a report released this month by the National Employment Law Project:

In 2011, more than one in four private sector jobs (26 percent) were low‐wage positions paying less than $10 per hour. These jobs, moreover, were concentrated in industries where low‐wage workers make up a substantial share – in some cases more than half – of the entire workforce.

Worse yet, the share of low-wage jobs is increasing, as five industries that are comprised primarily of low-wage workers have grown faster than total employment since the end of the Great Recession, as this NELP chart shows:

While the share of low-wage jobs continues to rise, so to do the profits of the corporations that utilize low-wage workers. Two-thirds of America’s low-wage workers are employed by corporations with more than 100 employees, and the nation’s biggest low-wage employers are faring well since the end of the recession. 92 percent were profitable last year, and 63 percent are more profitable than they were before the recession, according to the report.

And even as they employ low-wage workers, chief executives continue to rake in massive salaries, as AlterNet’s Sarah Jaffe notes. At the 50 companies that employ the largest number of low-wage workers, CEOs made an average of $9.4 million — roughly 450 times more than the gross income of a full-time worker who makes $10 an hour.