Dee DePass has been a Star Tribune business reporter since 1993, covering small business, financial institutions, manufacturing and, most recently, the economy. Originally from New York, Dee came to Minnesota after earning her master's in journalism at the University of Maryland and her undergraduate degree at Vassar College.

Posts about Compensation

Personal income is up, but disposable income ticks lower

Posted by: Dee DePass Updated: December 23, 2011 - 5:07 PM

Personal income rose in November but the the increase was too small to notice and definitely too small to inflate Americans' pinched disposable incomes, according to data released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Personal income increased $8.5 billion, or 0.1 percent in November at the same time that disposable income fell by nearly 0.1 percent or $5.0 billion.

Consumers continued to struggle with high health care, food, gas and airline costs, economists noted. In fact, Friday's BEA data found that "personal consumption expenditures" jumped $13.1 billion, or 0.1 percent in November. It had jumped $11.3 billion or 0.1 percent in October.

November's personal income gain of 0.1 percent proved less robust than October’s, which jumped $47 billion or 0.4 percent. Disposable income for October, however,  increased by 0.2 percent or $27.2 billion.

Earlier this week, The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis released its 2012 forecast based upon survey results from hundreds of business owners across the Ninth District. Respondents suggested that they intend to raise wages and benefits next year. Minnesotans can expect about a 2 percent increase, Fed economists said. 
 

Compensation by county rose modestly in 2010

Posted by: Dee DePass Updated: December 14, 2011 - 4:06 PM

The good news is salaries and wages rose slightly  in counties across the nation in 2010 The sobering news is that most paychecks didn’t rise very far above inflation.

Total compensation rose just 2.2 percent “as net job losses partially offset compensation growth,” according to data released Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Wage growth was just ahead of inflation’s 1.8 percent rate.
The biggest gains came from professional, scientific and technical jobs and in banking and insurance. Compensation rose in 2,480 counties and fell in 633. 

Santa Clara in California enjoyed a 9.8 percent jump in wages, while others such as San Mateo County saw wages plummet 4.3 percent.

Minnesota’s largest counties registered more moderate gains. Hennepin County saw total compensation rise 3.4 percent to $61.2 billion. On average workers saw 3.3 percent raises that brought their wages and salaries to $70,749.
Ramsey County compensation rose 2.6 percent to $21.5 billion in 2010. On average, workers took home 3.3 percent more in pay or $63,288.

Dakota County wages rose 1 percent to $10.163 billion or by an average 2.1 percent to $56,220 per job.
Such wages compared to the average $46,438 earned in El Paso County, Texas and the $116,047 earned in the county of New York.
 

San Francisco is first city to bump minimum wage above $10 an hour

Posted by: Dee DePass Updated: November 30, 2011 - 11:55 AM

The Employment Policies Institute (EPI) announced Tuesday that San Francisco will become the first U.S. city to raise the minimum wage above $10 an hour.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2012, that city's minimum wage will jump 32 cents to $10.24 an hour.

Eight states are also set to beef up their minimum wage rates come the first of the year. Sorry Minnesotans. Your state is not among them. 

In fact, at $6.15 an hour, Minnesota's minimum wage is paltry in comparison to some of its peers. The federal minimum wage rate is $7.25 an hour. (The federal minimum wage automatically applies to Minnesota workers at companies with more than $500,000 in annual revenues. Federal wages may also kick in for workers at  companies conducting interstate commerce.) 

Wage disparities summon debate from staunch advocates for realistic or "livable" wages and critics who say that wages should be based on what the market will bear, not legislation that sometimes thwarts hiring. 

Labor union's radio ad campaign targets Mills Fleet Farm in Carver

Posted by: Dee DePass Updated: November 23, 2011 - 4:24 PM

The local arm of the Laborers International Union of North America will use Black Friday to launch a negative radio campaign against Mills Fleet Farm in the hopes of shaming it into hiring more local construction workers at higher pay at its new store in Carver, Minn.

 The radio ads, which Fleet Farm insists are based on gross misinformation, are the union’s latest salvo in a controversy that has been brewing since August. Union members have passed out leaflets, contacted the media and now will hit the airwaves.

Construction began in late June. The complex will include the Fleet Farm retail store, a Mills Gas Mart and convenience store, and a Mills Car Wash on nearly 39 acres near Jonathan Carver Parkway and Hwy. 212.

The dispute started when officials of the union’s Local 563 accused Fleet Farm and its contractor, Breitbach Construction Co. in Elrosa, Mn., of using a Washington state day-labor temp-firm to hire four day laborers who performed temporary duties in August. The workers were paid minimum wage and came from Richfield, Minn.

 Ryan Breitbach, vice president of Breitbach Construction, told the Star Tribune that he paid the temp agency $18 to $19 an hour and didn’t know the workers only received minimum wage. Upon learning that, Breitbach said he terminated all dealings with the firm. The workers don’t work on the project anymore.
Aside from the day laborers, Breitbach and other contractors have employed more than 100 workers on the project to date. About 30 are union members.

Those details have not mollified Local 563. Union officials say they now don’t know who to believe.

Tim Mackey, business manager for the Local 563 said that when the union initially complained to Fleet Farm about the low paid workers, the company denied the event ever took place. The union distributed fliers to customers at Fleet Farm stores in Oakdale, Blaine, and Brooklyn Park. The company countered with fliers of it’s own saying the event never happened and that the union was not telling the truth, Mackey said.

 The company later told the Star Tribune that it discovered the hiccup did occur, but via its Breitbach contractor. Since then, “Our continuing efforts to reach out and meet with the Mills Fleet Farm executives about their business practices is falling on deaf ears,” Mackey said. Now, “I’m hoping they hear our spot.”

 The ad will air in Brainerd and in the Twin Cities and cost the union $10,000. Union officials said that at least one of the four temp workers had no construction experience. Two were from out of town. All lacked the safety training union members receive, union leaders said.

The radio ad will feature two deer hunters who accuse Fleet Farm of using “cheap and unskilled labor” while taking tax dollars to build their $20.5 million project.

One hunter quips, “Shame on them!” while the other says, “Fleet Farm is cheating the community.”

The spot ends with one of the hunters going to spread the news that he is not happy with Fleet Farm’s business practices.

Breitbach said the ad is not fair, noting that the four workers at the heart of the controversy only worked 163 hours on the project, while other workers have over 6,000 hours on the job.
“The [union] is making it sound like that 163 man hours is going to contribute to a less than satisfactory or safe project,” Breitbach said. “And I think it’s a ridiculous claim.”

Officials from Fleet Farm did not immediately return phone calls for this story.

State releases minimum wage data

Posted by: Dee DePass Updated: November 21, 2011 - 1:09 PM

A study released Monday by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry suggests that 95,000 Minnesotans made $7.25 an hour or less in fiscal 2010.

While the U.S. minimum wage rate is $7.25, Minnesota's minimum wage is only $6.15 an hour, meaning that some workers here make far below what is considered a livable wage.  Some workers are covered by both state and federal minimum wage laws and as a result, would make the higher of the two wages.

Still, they are not getting rich.

In fact, the report found that:

  •  after adjusting for inflation, hourly earnings averaged the same in 2010 as they did in 1970.
  •  The younger the worker, the less the pay.
  •  Some 28 percent of 15 to 19 year olds made minimum wage or less. 
  •  Only 3.4 percent of 25 to 54 year olds made minimum wage. It was 3.3 percent for those over age 55.
  •  High school dropouts made up 32 percent of all hourly workers at or below minimum wage.
  •  29 percent of Minnesotans working at or below $7.25 an hour also received overtime, tips or commission pay. 
  •  52 percent of restaurant workers making minimum wage also made overtime, tips or commission pay.
  •  8.2 percent of all workers in non-metro areas toiled for minimum wage or less. In cities, the figure was 5.9 percent.

 

State releases minimum wage data

Posted by: Dee DePass Updated: November 21, 2011 - 1:09 PM

A study released Monday by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry suggests that 95,000 Minnesotans made $7.25 an hour or less in fiscal 2010.

While the U.S. minimum wage rate is $7.25, Minnesota's minimum wage is only $6.15 an hour, meaning that some workers here make far below what is considered a livable wage.  Some workers are covered by both state and federal minimum wage laws and as a result, would make the higher of the two wages.

Still, they are not getting rich.

In fact, the report found that:

  •  after adjusting for inflation, hourly earnings averaged the same in 2010 as they did in 1970.
  •  The younger the worker, the less the pay.
  •  Some 28 percent of 15 to 19 year olds made minimum wage or less. 
  •  Only 3.4 percent of 25 to 54 year olds made minimum wage. It was 3.3 percent for those over age 55.
  •  High school dropouts made up 32 percent of all hourly workers at or below minimum wage.
  •  29 percent of Minnesotans working at or below $7.25 an hour also received overtime, tips or commission pay. 
  •  52 percent of restaurant workers making minimum wage also made overtime, tips or commission pay.
  •  8.2 percent of all workers in non-metro areas toiled for minimum wage or less. In cities, the figure was 5.9 percent.

 

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