Patriot News (PA): Federal minimum wage rises from $6.55 to $7.25

By Sharon Smith
Patriot News (PA), July 24, 2009

Few midstate workers make minimum wage, but if you are among the few who do, you get a bump in pay today.

The federally mandated minimum wage rises to $7.25 today, up from $6.55 per hour.

The Keystone State's minimum wage rose to $7.15 in 2007, so the move is likely to have a small effect on workers living in the Capital region.

Still, some say the higher minimum wage could help the local and national economies.

Business for Shared Prosperity, a Boston-based group, collected the signature of 1,000 business owners and CEOs who support the hike in the minimum wage.

"You are giving people at the lower end of the economy more money to spend. That's going to create consumption," said Bob Keener, a spokesman for the group.

Consumer spending makes up two-thirds of the economy. But consumers haven't been spending.

TD Bank Chief Economist Joel Naroff said it's easier for businesses to deal with a higher minimum wage in good times. "In tough times, it becomes much more difficult to absorb the higher costs," he said.

Companies who pay more than the minimum wage might have to raise their pay, too, he said. An employer who is paying an experienced worker $8 an hour may have to raise that rate to widen the gap between the earnings of someone less experienced.

Most midstate employers pay more than the minimum wage.

"We just won't pay minimum wage," said Sherry Shumaker, owner of Keystone Staffing Inc. in Lemoyne. "You truly have to be paying 10 bucks or higher."

Shumaker's agency places people in jobs such as accounting clerk or customer service representative. For those jobs, minimum wage won't cut it. An accounting clerk position Shumaker's firm is posting pays between $10 and $12 an hour.

Midstate workers who prepare or serve food are among the area's lowest paid employees, federal data shows. But even they make a mean hourly wage of $9.71.

At Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Co., which operates Hersheypark, hotels, and restaurants, fewer than 50 workers were impacted by the increase in the minimum wage, said Garrett Gallia, a company spokesman.

"To give some perspective, we have a total of approximately 8,500 people employed during the height of our operating year," he said.

At Karns Quality Foods, few workers make the minimum wage, said Scott Karns, the company's president.

"We want to get the right people," he said.

Copyright 2009 Patriot News

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