What are Houston employers paying for entry-level jobs?

By Amy Davis - Reporter/Consumer Expert

HOUSTON - The nation's unemployment rate is 5.8 percent, the lowest it's been since 2008. Still, workers say the pay they're getting for many entry-level jobs is too low. Instead of calling local employers to ask what they pay, Local 2 wanted to hear what employers tell job candidates looking for work.     

Consumer expert Amy Davis hit record on our hidden camera to show you what local employers are paying Houstonians.

Local 2 enlisted the help of University of Houston senior Cassidy Estrada. She's interning at Local 2, hoping for a break into TV news. But we wanted to find out how she'd fare as a fast food employee, grocery store cashier, or a barista.

She walked into two dozen businesses wearing a hidden camera, asked for an application and how much she'd make.

At local fast food chains, the pay is what you might expect. Burger King and Subway start at Texas' minimum wage of $7.25. You can earn a few cents more at Taco Bell, starting at $7.45. Chik-fil-A will pay you $7.50 to start, McDonald's $7.55 and the starting pay is $7.75 at Wendy's.

We finally broke out of the 7's when we stopped by Chipotle, where the starting pay for a cashier is $8.75 an hour.

Just because you'll fork over 5 bucks for a Venti Frappuccino doesn't mean Starbucks is paying its employees higher wages. The manager at one Houston location told our intern the pay for beginning baristas starts at $7.50 plus tips.

We found the hourly pay spread to be pretty wide among Houston-area grocery stores.

At Randall's, entry level cashiers make $7.25 an hour. Kroger pays $7.65. HEB bumps it up almost $2 to start cashiers at $9.50 an hour.

You could get a job at Whole Foods for $11 an hour or Costco, where cashiers start at $11.50.

The highest paying grocery store in town we found is Aldi, where cashiers can start between $11.50 and $15.75 an hour.

"Houston, in particular, has the lowest cost of living than any of the 10 largest cities in the United States," said Kevin Price, the host of "The Price on Business" on Business Talk 1110 AM KTEK.

Price echoed what almost every employer Local 2 contacted said about their starting wages.

"They start at that wage, but I know a lot of these businesses, within six months they were moving up rather quickly."

We checked restaurants, too. Pappasito's, Olive Garden and Churassaco's all pay servers $2.13 an hour, plus any tips they make.

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