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Hobby Lobby to pay workers a minimum of $18.50 an hour

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Hobby Lobby workers will be taking home fatter paychecks in the new year, with the crafts chain upping pay to $18.50 an hour for full-time workers as of January 1. 

Hobby Lobby in 2009 set a nationwide minimum hourly wage well above the federal level, and has since hiked wages 12 times over the last 13 years, the privately held retailer said in a news release on Tuesday. Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby runs 956 stores in 47 states and employs more than 43,000 people. 

While the federal minimum has not budged from $7.25 an hour since 2009, a slew of retailers and fast-food chains have increased wages to $15 or more amid the pandemic and a shortage of workers.  

Frontline employees like grocery clerks and retail workers have seen wages grow at their fastest pace in years, but rising prices means those seemingly robust wage gains amount to "pennies" an hour once inflation is included, according to an analysis from the Brookings Institution. 

"The living wage is closer to $18 an hour," said Molly Kinder, fellow at Brookings Metro and a co-author of the new study on wages for frontline workers. 

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Hobby Lobby was ahead of the trend in raising its full-time minimum to $15 an hour in 2014, the retailer noted. More recently, the 49-year-old company in October 2020 raised its full-time minimum hourly wage to $17, with part-time workers earning an hourly base of $13.

The fast-food chain Taco Bell, meantime, plans to increase the average minimum wage to $15 an hour at company-owned restaurants by mid-2024, the Mexican-themed chain owned by Yum Brands stated on Tuesday. Taco Bell in June raised its starting pay to at least $11 an hour. 

There are more than 7,000 Taco Bell restaurants across the country, with more than 90% owned and run by independent franchisees.

"We're proud that many Taco Bell franchisees are offering the same average starting wage for team members across the country, varying by location and experience," a spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch in an email. 

But in Kinder's view, the coming move to $15 is too little and too late. 

Some companies are getting positive press for promising to pay more, "but many of these wages won't reach $15 for another year or more," Kinder noted. "The headlines are disconnecting from the realities of their jobs being worse than they were two years ago and inflation taking such a big bite out of the pay increases," she added.

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