Profile America: Minimum Wage

Thursday, January 5 — The business world was confronted with a new idea on this date in 1914.  That’s when Henry Ford announced that he would reduce the workday from nine to eight hours, and pay his factory assembly line workers a minimum wage of $5 a day, which is almost $121 in current dollars. The idea gained general acceptance, and in 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law a federally mandated minimum wage of 25 cents an hour. Currently, the federal hourly minimum wage is $7.25.  Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have rates over the federal minimum.  There are over 78 million hourly workers in the U.S., 2.6 million of them paid at or below the minimum wageHouseholds in the bottom 20 percent of income earn no more than $22,800 per year. 

Profile America is in its 20th year as a public service of the U.S. Census Bureau.

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