Impact of Minimum Wage Increase

October 21, 2005--Posted at 6:30 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, AR--Can a hard working American get by making $5.15 dollars an hour? That was the question in Congress yesterday as the Senate debated the issue of minimum wage.

$5.15 will buy you a fast food combo meal or an employee for an hour at minimum wage.

"$5.15 an hour is just not enough for anyone to expect to make any decent kind of living especially if they have a family," said U.S. Representative Marion Berry.

The minimum wage was increased in 1997 but yesterday in the U.S. Senate several proposals were blocked to raise that amount.

"Living on a minimum wage job working 40 hours a week is just barely above the poverty line, that just isn't right," said Berry.

"I think you are compounding the problem if you throw out a mandated higher wage job because companies are already feeling the pinch with higher fuel costs," said Paul Pickens, Market Manager for StaffMark.

The proposed increase in the minimum wage would have called for a 55 cent increase now and 55 cent in another year but there are differying opinions on what kind of impact this would have on the economy and the job market.

"It creates jobs because working people have more money to spend," said Berry.

"Everything is price driven, if a minimum wage increase happens it's going to reflect you and I because it is going to reflect the price of goods," said Pickens.

Meaning a higher minimum wage could possibly drive up costs forcing some companies to cut back on jobs.

"We raised the minimum wage in 97 and increased employment by millions of people," said Berry.

"There needs to be an adjustment to the minimum wage but I think we need to look at the skill set more than mandating what a minimum wage level would be," said Pickens.

So if an employee works hard they won't make minimum wage for long.

"This would be an entry level wage and as their skills increased so would their pay," said Pickens.

Congressman Berry says there is little chance this congress, which will serve until december of 2006, will raise the minimum wage.