Economic Snapshot | Wages, Incomes, and Wealth

Minimum wage: Still waiting on a raise

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Snapshot for April 18, 2007.

Minimum wage: Still waiting on a raise

by Liana Fox

While the federal minimum wage languishes at $5.15 per hour, states continue to act to raise this basic wage floor. It is likely that there will be a boost in the federal minimum wage by the end of the year, but states are increasingly reluctant to wait for federal action. With the last federal boost in 1997, low-wage workers have waited far too long already. The federal minimum wage is at its lowest real value in over 50 years.

Since the beginning of the year three states have, for the first time, raised their state minimum wages above the federal level of $5.15 per hour: Iowa ($7.25 by 2008), Kentucky ($7.25 by 2009), and New Mexico ($7.50 by 2009). That brings the count of states that have raised their minimum wages since the beginning of 2006 to an even 20. This has raised the wages of over 7.5 million workers. Thirty-one states plus the District of Columbia now have minimum wages above the federal level. In 19 states, even as the cost of living rises, the minimum wage continues to languish at the same level as 10 years ago—marking the longest period without an increase since the federal minimum wage was adopted in 1938.

See Table 5 [PDF] in EPI’s Minimum Wage Issue Guide for a complete listing of state minimum wage rates.

Minimum wage action in the states

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