On July 1st, workers in more than 270,000 jobs in communities across the state will receive a raise, thanks to the scheduled increase in Oregon’s minimum wage. This works out to workers in one in eight jobs in Oregon getting a raise. In some communities, workers in as many as one in five jobs will see an increase. Many of these Oregonians are struggling to afford rent or food for their families, and the raise will help them make ends meet. Despite the larger paycheck, many Oregonians will still struggle to afford the necessities.
The minimum wage law Oregon lawmakers approved in 2016 will provide a significant, although uneven, boost for workers across the state. In the Portland metro area, the minimum wage will increase from $11.25 to $12 per hour. In the rural counties of the state, the minimum wage will rise from $10 to $10.50 per hour, while the remaining outlying counties will go from $10.25 to $10.75 per hour. (A map provided by BOLI shows each county’s minimum wage classification.) A full-time minimum wage worker in the Portland metro area will receive a $130 per month raise, while Oregonians across the rest of the state will receive an $87 per month raise.
While the minimum wage increase is not as large in rural parts of the state as others, its impact will reach a larger share of the region’s jobs. For instance, workers in more than one in five jobs in Malheur County will see a raise, the highest share of jobs receiving a raise of any county in the state. The next highest benefiting counties — Harney, Baker, Curry, and Lake counties — are also rural.
Even though Oregonians across the state will benefit from this raise, the boost is still not enough for many minimum wage workers to afford housing. Full-time minimum wage workers in the Portland metro area would need to earn an additional $9.77 per hour to afford a one bedroom unit in their community. This untenable situation extends beyond Oregon’s urban centers. Minimum wage workers employed full time in Wasco County, for example, would need to earn $4.60 more per hour to afford a one bedroom unit in the county.
Boosting Oregon’s minimum wage is a crucial step in helping Oregonians afford the basic necessities. However, the cost of housing is also increasing at a fast pace. Oregon should celebrate the minimum wage increase but at the same time acknowledge that it’s not enough for many low-income households to meet their basic needs. Indeed, Oregon needs additional ways to bolster economic security, starting with affordable housing.