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September, 30, 2016

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Minimum wage matters in White House race

WASHINGTON -- Modest income growth for most Americans, strikes by fast-food workers, and the rapid growth of low-paying jobs at the same time middle-income work shrinks have combined to make the minimum wage a top economic issue for the 2016 campaign. Millions could benefit: Raising the federal minimum wage from US$7.25 per hour to US$12 would lift pay for 35 million workers, or 1 in 4 employees nationwide, according to the liberal Economic Policy Institute. But it would also boost costs for employers and may slow hiring. And it could lead to higher prices at clothing stores and restaurants and for other services.

Where They Stand

Both candidates have struggled to articulate their positions. Hillary Clinton says she supports raising the minimum wage to US$12 an hour, rather than the US$15 supported by advocates for low-income workers and by the Democratic Party's platform. But she also supports state and local efforts to push it higher than US$12.

Donald Trump is harder to pin down. Last fall he opposed any increase in the minimum, saying that overall wages were too high in the U.S. In July he said the minimum wage should be US$10, but added that states should "really call the shots."

Why It Matters

Income for the typical household has fallen 2.4 percent since 1999, even after a big gain in 2015. That has elevated the issue of wage growth over other economic concerns, particularly as the unemployment rate has fallen back to pre-Great Recession levels.

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