Most N.H. low-wage workers are women, elderly, professor says

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DURHAM, N.H. (AP) – Most of the state’s lowest paid workers are adults, including single mothers and older residents who don’t have enough money to retire, says a University of New Hampshire professor.

Professor Ross Gittell, who helps prepare economic forecasts for the state and the region, said the facts belie the notion that most minimum wage workers are teenagers and other first-time job holders.

“The large majority of workers at or near minimum wage in New Hampshire are not teenagers. They’re actually parents of children and single mothers who rely on wages to support their families,” he said.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted last week to raise the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour over the next two years. The Senate is expected to pass a similar wage hike.

New Hampshire’s minimum wage is $5.15, the lowest in New England.

Hotel and restaurant owners in the state are criticizing the proposed increase, saying it’s unnecessary because most businesses pay their workers more already.

Still, members of the New Hampshire Restaurant and Lodging Association fear that an increase in the minimum wage will force them to raise salaries for all their workers.

“Any kind of wage increase is going to have upward pressure,” said Michelline Dufort, president of the group. “Restaurants, typically the average profit margin is 4 percent. So if you are going to increase wages, that 4 percent gets hit.”

About 32,000 workers in New Hampshire, or about 5 percent of the workforce, earn between $5.15 and $6.65 an hour. Of those, more than 14,000 work full-time, and 5,000 have children, he said. About 30 percent are older than 45.

About 60 percent of full-time, low-wage workers are women, although women comprise only 40 percent of the general workforce. Thus women would benefit most from a pay increase, he said.

A minimum wage increase “would actually be beneficial, because it would put more wages in the population that has really fallen behind in wages,” he said.



Information from: New Hampshire Union Leader, http://www.unionleader.com

AP-ES-01-15-07 1158EST

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