The number of people working jobs that paid the federal minimum wage dropped last year, according to new labor statistics published Wednesday.
An estimated 3.6 million people were paid hourly rates at or below the federal minimum in 2012, down from 3.8 million a year earlier.
Just under 60% of all U.S. workers are paid hourly, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. An estimated 4.7% of those hourly workers make minimum wage or less, down from 5.2%, a year earlier. That share is the lowest since 2008.
Eighteen states, plus the District of Columbia, set their own minimum wage rates above the federal level. Washington state's is the highest, at $9.19 an hour, while San Francisco has the highest local rate, at $10.55 per hour.
There's not much difference when it comes to race: Around 5% of white, black and Latino hourly workers earned up to the minimum wage. Among Asians, the share was about 3%.
Two jobs, hard times
About half of workers paid at or below the minimum wage work in the leisure and hospitality industry, with the vast majority employed in restaurants and food service. Many make tips and commissions to supplement their wages.
The states with the highest proportion of minimum wage workers were Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas and Idaho, all between 7% and 8% of their hourly workforce. On the flip side, Alaska, Oregon, California, Montana and Washington have the lowest share, all under 2%. All of those states set their own minimum rates above the federal level.
The federal stats, however, miss many minimum wage workers because they don't include those paid a fixed weekly amount, such as maids or landscapers, whose hourly rate often equals the minimum wage. The federal minimum wage translates into about $14,500 a year for a full-time employee.