Alton, IL

Minimum Wage Hike Could Hurt Far Southern Illinois

Story by WBGZ Radio

A renewed push to increase the state's minimum wage would shake the economy of many fragile downstate areas already dealing with higher than average unemployment, a downstate chamber director said.

State Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, said last week that a $15 minimum wage is needed if new job growth is going to be centered around the low-wage service sector.

"These are where the new jobs are. If the jobs are going to be in the service sector, they're going to have to pay a living wage," he said.

But according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than half of the jobs in some areas of downstate and central Illinois pay wages less than $15 an hour. One instance is the Carbondale-Marion area, where the median hourly wage is $13.85. That would require businesses to pay more in salaries to more than half of the 52,000 workers in those cities.

Carbondale Chamber of Commerce director Les O'Dell says this would cripple the local economy.

"Those business owners can't handle an increase to $15 an hour," O'Dell said. "They would just eliminate positions."

O'Dell says laws like that don't take account of the effects to regions outside of Chicago, where the median wage is $18.68.

"Those from the Chicagoland area ... aren't considering the rest of Illinois, especially southern Illinois. The average income is considerably less than the Chicago area. The cost of living is incredibly less," he said.

The Carbondale-Marion area's unemployment rate is 7 percent. Statewide, it's 5.7 percent. And the national average is 4.7 percent.


(Copyright WBGZ Radio/



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