BOISE -- As of January 1st, three of Idaho's neighboring states increased their minimum wage even higher over the Gem State's.
Due to an automatic cost-of-living increase of 15-cents-an-hour, Washington's minimum wage jumped to $9.19, Oregon to $8.95, and Montana to $7.80. Washington's minimum wage (the highest in the country) is now almost $2.00-an-hour more than Idaho's, which saw no increase.
Some experts say that could send Idaho's unemployed, especially those living in border towns, moving or commuting to neighboring states for those higher-paying entry-level jobs. In a KTVB online poll, more than 60% of people (as of news time) said they would commute to a neighboring state for a higher-paying minimum wage job.
You have places like Coeur d'Alene, Post Falls, Lewiston, Moscow, where the difference in the minimum wage is almost $2.00-an-hour. And, the distance to get the difference is a matter of miles, said Bob Fick with the Idaho Department of Labor.
Some job seekers are doing just that, but many are not, or rather, cannot. Carol Campbell with the Department of Labor's office in Payette (right on the Oregon border) says the people she sees are just looking for a job anywhere. Fick says with more than two unemployed workers for every open position, there just aren't enough jobs in any state for job-seekers to be picky. There's a lot of competition for the available jobs, and that takes the pressure off employers to use wages and benefits as a lure.
Fick says in more competitive environments, Idaho employers have raised their wages to keep workers in-state. However, there's no need to do that right now, so most entry-level jobs in Idaho will stay at the minimum wage. It's an employers' market.
Idaho's minimum wage is tied to the federal minimum wage, so if that goes up, so will Idaho's. Another Idaho neighbor, Utah, does the same thing.
Wyoming's minimum wage is less than Idaho's. Fick points out, in a state like that with a lower minimum wage, the federal wage is in effect for larger businesses or those that conduct interstate commerce.