That is triple the proportion when the recession technically ended nearly three years ago, according to an analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Recent increases in the minimum wage partly explain the rise, but the percentage of Georgians earning $7.25 an hour – and in some cases less – rose to 9.6 last year, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The national figure is 5.2 percent.
The figures suggest the sluggish economic recovery is not reaching the ranks of the working poor – and might be enlarging them.
William Bell, an unemployed trucker, once scoffed at jobs paying the minimum but says he and others have to survive somehow on the low wages being offered.
“Employers have the upper hand,” said Bell, 54. “We’re being offered crumbs. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to survive on those crumbs and put food on the table.”
Georgia officials have long touted the state’s pay scale as a potent lure for labor-intensive industries, a financial incentive that has helped attract hundreds of low-wage businesses and factories over the years.
“Most small businessmen are big believers in the free market and wages, like anything else, will work themselves out,” said Kyle Jackson, the director of the National Federation of Independent Business in Georgia.
“Employers who are artificially paying their employees less than what the market dictates aren’t going to have good employees and successful businesses,” Jackson said.