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21 states to boost minimum wage in January

The minimum wage is set to increase in 21 states in the new year, benefiting more than 3.1 million workers, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

After the new wages go into effect, 29 states and the District of Columbia will have minimum wages higher than the federal minimum of $7.25. Washington state's new minimum wage $9.47 per hour will be the highest in the nation.

In Washington and eight other states (Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio and Oregon) the minimum wage is rising simply due to annual adjustments required by state law. In four states (Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota), voters approved ballot measures in 2014 to increase the minimum wage. In seven other states (Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia), legislators approved wage increases. Additionally, legislators in New York approved a wage increase that will go into effect on December 31, 2014.

Those wage increases should translate into more than $838 million in new economic growth, according to EPI, as workers spend more money.

Delaware and Minnesota are slated to increase their respective minimum wages in mid-2015. Once those states are accounted for, the higher minimum wages next year should account for more than $1 billion in economic growth.

The U.S. economy has been steadily improving, with economic growth hitting a strong 5 percent in the third quarter, but proponents of higher minimum wages have pointed out that a large share of the new jobs created since the economic recovery began have been in low-wage industries. Groups like the National Employment Law Project (NELP) are pushing Congress to raise the federal minimum wage.

"The wage crisis is a national crisis, and one that Congress would wisely address by taking a page from the books of states and localities," NELP executive director Christine Owens said in a statement. "Throughout the country, voters and local governments have heeded the public's demand for higher wages. Now it's time for Congress to do the same, and give workers across the nation the pay raise they need and have earned."

Democrats in 2014 campaigned on the promise to keep pushing for a federal minimum wage increase, but with Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress next year, the issue is unlikely to be taken up.

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