- A record number of states, cities and counties are raising their minimum wage this year.
- Almost 7 million workers could benefit from the pay increases, with some earning as much as $1,700 more per year.
- Workers in Seattle will be guaranteed pay of at least $16.39 an hour, among the country's highest minimum wages.
The new year begins with a record number of states, cities and counties boosting their minimum wage.
On or around January 1, the minimum wage increased in 21 states, while another 26 cities and counties also boosting their baseline pay at year-start. Later in the year, an additional four states and 23 cities and counties will hike their minimum wages, according to the National Employment Law Project, a worker rights group.
"This is the greatest number of states and localities ever to raise their wage floors, both in January and for the year as a whole," said Yannet Lathrop, policy analyst at NELP, in a blog post about the increases.
The record number of pay hikes will benefit about 6.8 million workers, according to an analysis from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. EPI estimates the range of pay gains starting at $150 and as high as $1,700 for full-time, year-round workers, depending on the wage hikes in their regions.
The surge in higher minimum wages comes after years of lobbying and demonstrations from labor groups like the Fight for $15, which sprang up in 2012 to advocate for a living wage of $15 an hour. At the time, its goals struck some critics as far-fetched, but widening income inequality and spiraling housing costs are putting pressure on lawmakers to pass higher minimum wages.
Record-low unemployment across most of the country also has played a role, forcing employers to bid up wages to attract qualified employees. Late in 2018, Amazonfor workers at warehouse operations around the country to $15. Even the conservative TV network Sinclair Broadcasting, after railing against minimum wage hikes in on-air commentaries, last month to $15 an hour.
The country's highest minimum wages are enacted in some California and Washington cities and counties. Workers in Seattle are now earning one of the highest minimum wages in the country, with the baseline wage increasing to $16.39 an hour. In Sunnyvale and Mountain View, California — the heart of Silicon Valley — the baseline hourly pay rose to $16.05 from a previous floor of $15.64.
On a percentage basis, the state with the biggest jump is New Mexico, where the minimum wage rose from $7.50 to $9 an hour, or an increase of 20%.
Federal minimum wage
Despite the surge in higher minimum wage laws across the country, the federal baseline wage has been mired at $7.25 an hour for a decade. That marks ato the federal minimum wage.
The Raise the Wage Act of 2019, passed last year by the U.S. House of Representatives, would boost the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, but the bill hasn't yet been taken up by the Senate for debate. In the meantime, states, cities and counties are taking their own steps to boost minimum wage laws.
Said Lathrop: "These increases will put much-needed money into the hands of the lowest-paid workers, many of whom struggle with high and ever-increasing costs of living."
The maximal minimums
These are the places that have minimum wage of $15 or higher as of January 1.
- Mountain View, California - $16.05
- Sunnyvale, California - $16.05 (15.75 for small employers)
- Los Altos, California - $15.40
- Palo Alto, California - $15.40
- Santa Clara, California - $15.40
- Redwood, California - $15.38
- San Mateo, California - $15.38
- El Cerrito, California - $15.37
- Cupertino, California - $15.35
- San Jose, California - $15.25
- New York City, New York - $15
- Belmont, California - $15
- Menlo Park, California - $15
- Richmond, California - $15
- Petaluma, California - $15 (14 for small employers)
- South San Francisco, California - $15
States with wage hikes on January 1
Each of the 21 states that are boosting their minimum wages at year-start, with their new minimum wage and percentage increase.
- Alaska - $10.19 (3%)
- Arizona - $12 (9.1%)
- Arkansas - $10 (8.1%)
- California - $13 (8.3%)
- Colorado - $12 (8.1%)
- Florida - $8.56 (1.2%)
- Illinois - $9.25 (12%)
- Maine - $12 (9.1%)
- Maryland - $11 (8.9%)
- Massachusetts - $12.75 (6.3%)
- Michigan - $9.65 (2.1%)
- Minnesota - $10 (1.4%)
- Missouri - $9.45 (9.9%)
- Montana - $8.65 (1.8%)
- New Jersey - $11 (10%)
- New Mexico - $9 (20%)
- New York - $11.80 (6.3%)
- Ohio - $8.70 (1.8%)
- South Dakota - $9.30 (2.2%)
- Vermont - $10.96 (1.7%)
- Washington - $13.50 (12.5%)