In the midst of the Obama administration's latest push to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has released an analysis showing the the percentage of hourly workers earning at or below the minimum wage is down to 4.3 percent, or 3.3 million workers. The decrease continues a trend of more than three decades, beginning with a high of 15 percent back in the early 1980s. The numbers have occasionally spiked in reaction to economic conditions, most recently in the so-called Great Recession from 2008 to 2010, but then resumed the downward direction.
Women's gains in this area have been even more dramatic, falling from around 22 percent in the early 1980s to about 5 percent in 2013. The percentage for men during the same time went from about 10 percent to about 3 percent.
The largest segment of the workforce earning minimum wage or below is in food preparation and serving (21.7 percent) whose wages are often supplemented by tips. Other industries represented in the survey include service occupations, such as healthcare and protective services (11.3 percent), and sales and related occupations (6.1 percent).
A related report from the BLS includes other facts about minimum wage workers: