Minimum wage in the United States
The minimum wage in the United States is set by US labor law and a range of state and local laws. Employers generally have to pay workers the highest minimum wage prescribed by federal, state, and local law. Since July 24, 2009, the federal government has mandated a nationwide minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. As of January 2018, there were 29 states with a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum. From 2017 to 2018, eight states increased their minimum wage levels through automatic adjustments, while increases in eleven other states occurred through referendum or legislative action.
Using 2018 inflation-adjusted dollars, the federal minimum wage peaked at $11.77 per hour in 1968. If the minimum wage in 1968 had kept up with labor's productivity growth, it would have reached $19.33 in 2017. There is a racial difference in support for a higher minimum wage with most Black and Latino individuals supporting a $15.00 federal minimum wage, and 54% of Whites opposing it. In 2015, about 3% of White, Asian, and Latino workers earned the federal minimum wage or less. Amongst Black workers, the percentage was about 4%.
— President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933
Minimum wage legislation emerged at the end of the nineteenth century from the desire to end sweated labor which had developed in the wake of industrialization. Sweatshops employed large numbers of women and young workers, paying them what were considered nonliving wages that did not allow workers to afford the necessaries of life. Besides substandard wages, sweating was also associated with long work hours and unsanitary work conditions. From the 1890s to the 1920s, during the Progressive Era, a time of social activists and political reform across the United States, progressive reformers, women's organizations, religious figures, academics, and politicians all played an important role in getting state minimum wage laws passed throughout the United States.
The first successful attempts at using minimum wage laws to ameliorate the problem of nonliving wages occurred in the Australian state of Victoria in 1896. Factory inspector reports and newspaper reporting on the conditions of sweated labor in Melbourne, Victoria led in 1895 to the formation of the National Anti-Sweating League which pushed the government aggressively to deal legislatively with the problem of substandard wages. The government, following the recommendation of the Victorian Chief Secretary Alexander Peacock, established wage boards which were tasked with establishing minimum wages in the labor trades which suffered from nonlivable wages. During the same time period, campaigns against sweated labor were occurring in the United States and England.
In the United States in 1890, a group of concerned female reformers who wanted to improve the harsh conditions of sweated workers formed the Consumer's League of the City of New York. The consumer group sought to improve working conditions by boycotting products which were made under sweated conditions and did not conform to a code of "fair house" standards drawn up by them. Similar, consumer leagues formed throughout the United States, and in 1899, they united under the National Consumer League (NCL) parent organization. Consumer advocacy, however, was extremely slow at changing conditions in the sweated industries. When NCL leaders in 1908 went to an international anti-sweatshop conference in Geneva, Switzerland and were introduced to Australian minimum wage legislation, which had successfully dealt with sweated labor, they came home believers and made minimum wage legislation part of their national platform.
In 1910, in conjunction with advocacy work led by Florence Kelley of the National Consumer League, the Women's Trade Union League (WTLU) of Massachusetts under the leadership of Elizabeth Evans took up the cause of minimum wage legislation in Massachusetts. Over the next two years, a coalition of social reform groups and labor advocates in Boston pushed for minimum wage legislation in the state. On June 4, 1912, Massachusetts passed the first minimum wage legislation in the United States, which established a state commission for recommending non-compulsory minimum wages for women and children. The passage of the bill was significantly assisted by the Lawrence textile strike which had raged for ten weeks at the beginning of 1912. The strike brought national attention to the plight of the low wage textile workers, and pushed the state legislatures, who feared the magnitude of the strike, to enact progressive labor legislation.
By 1923, fifteen U.S. states and the District of Columbia had passed minimum wage laws, with pressure being placed on state legislatures by the National Consumers League in a coalition with other women's voluntary associations and organized labor. The United States Supreme Court of the Lochner era (1897–1937), however, consistently invalidated labor regulation laws. Advocates for state minimum wage laws hoped that they would be upheld under the precedent of Muller v. Oregon (1908), which upheld maximum working hours laws for women on the grounds that women required special protection that men did not. The Supreme Court, however, did not extend this principle to minimum wage laws.:518 The court ruled in Adkins v. Children's Hospital (1923) that the District of Columbia's minimum wage law was unconstitutional, because the law interfered with the ability of employers to freely negotiate wage contracts with employees. The court also noted that women did not require anymore special protection by the law, following the passage in 1920 of the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the right to vote and equal legal status.
In 1933, the Roosevelt administration during the New Deal made the first attempt at establishing a national minimum wage regiment with the National Industrial Recovery Act, which set minimum wage and maximum hours on an industry and regional basis. The Supreme Court, however, in Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States (1935) ruled the act unconstitutional, and the minimum wage regulations were abolished. Two years later after President Roosevelt's overwhelming reelection in 1936 and discussion of judicial reform, the Supreme Court took up the issue of labor legislation again in West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish (1937) and upheld the constitutionality of minimum wage legislation enacted by Washington state and overturned the Adkins decision which marked the end of the Lochner era. In 1938, the minimum wage was re-established pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act, this time at a uniform rate of $0.25 per hour ($4.78 in 2017 dollars). The Supreme Court upheld the Fair Labor Standards Act in United States v. Darby Lumber Co. (1941), holding that Congress had the power under the Commerce Clause to regulate employment conditions.
The 1938 minimum wage law only applied to "employees engaged in interstate commerce or in the production of goods for interstate commerce," but in amendments in 1961 and 1966, the federal minimum wage was extended (with slightly different rates) to employees in large retail and service enterprises, local transportation and construction, state and local government employees, as well as other smaller expansions; a grandfather clause in 1990 drew most employees into the purview of federal minimum wage policy, which now set the wage at $3.80.
The federal minimum wage in the United States was reset to its current rate of $7.25 per hour in July 2009. Some U.S. territories (such as American Samoa) are exempt. Some types of labor are also exempt: Employers may pay tipped labor a minimum of $2.13 per hour, as long as the hour wage plus tip income equals at least the minimum wage. Persons under the age of 20 may be paid $4.25 an hour for the first 90 calendar days of employment (sometimes known as a youth, teen, or training wage) unless a higher state minimum exists. The 2009 increase was the last of three steps of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007, which was signed into law as a rider to the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act, 2007, a bill that also contained almost $5 billion in tax cuts for small businesses.
Some politicians in the United States advocate linking the minimum wage to the consumer price index, thereby increasing the wage automatically each year based on increases to the consumer price index. Linking the minimum wage to the consumer price index avoids the erosion of the purchasing power of the minimum wage with time because of inflation. In 1998 Washington state became the first state to approve consumer price indexing for its minimum wage. In 2003 San Francisco, California and Santa Fe, New Mexico were the first cities to approve consumer price indexing for their minimum wage. Oregon and Florida were the next states to link their minimum wages to the consumer price index. Later in 2006, voters in six states (Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, and Ohio) approved statewide increases in the state minimum wage. The amounts of these increases ranged from $1 to $1.70 per hour, and all increases were designed to annually index to inflation. As of 2018, the minimum wage is indexed to inflation in 17 states.
Living wage protests
Since 2012, a growing protest and advocacy movement called "Fight for $15", initially growing out of fast food worker strikes, has advocated for an increase in the minimum wage to a living wage. Since the start of these protests, a number of states and cities have increased their minimum wage. In 2014 Connecticut for instance passed legislation to raise the minimum wage from $8.70 to $10.10 per hour by 2017, making it one of about six states at the time to aim at or above $10.00 per hour. In 2014 and 2015, several cities, including San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C. passed ordinances that gradually increase the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour. In 2016 New York and California became the first states to pass legislation that would gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour in each state.
In April 2014, the U.S. Senate debated the minimum wage on the federal level by way of the Minimum Wage Fairness Act. The bill would have amended the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) to increase the federal minimum wage for employees to $10.10 per hour over the course of a two-year period. The bill was strongly supported by President Barack Obama and many of the Democratic Senators, but strongly opposed by Republicans in the Senate and House. Later in 2014, voters in the Republican-controlled states of Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota considered ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage above the national rate of $7.25 per hour, which were successful in all four states. The results provided evidence that raising minimum wage has support across party lines.
In April 2017, Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Patty Murray, backed by 28 of the Senate's Democrats, introduced new federal legislation which would raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2024 and index it to inflation. The Raise the Wage Act of 2017, which was simultaneously introduced in the House of Representatives with 166 Democratic cosponsors, would raise the minimum wage to $9.25 per hour immediately, and then gradually increase it to $15 per hour by 2024, while simultaneously raising the minimum wage for tipped workers and phasing it out. The legislation was introduced according to Senator Bernie Sanders to make sure that every worker has at least a modest and decent standard of living.
In the United States, different states are able to set their own minimum wages independent of the federal government. When the state and federal minimum wage differ the higher wage prevails. As of January 2018, there were 29 states with a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum. Washington has the highest state minimum wage at $11.50 per hour. A number of states have also in recent years enacted state preemption laws, which restrict local community rights, and bar local governments from setting their own minimum wage amounts. As of 2017, state preemption laws for local minimum wages have passed in 25 states.
Legislation has passed recently in multiple states that significantly raises the minimum wage. California is set to raise its minimum wage to $15.00 per hour by January 1, 2023. Colorado is set to raise its minimum wage from $9.30 per hour to $12 per hour by January 1, 2020, rising $0.90 per year. New York has also passed legislation to increase its minimum wage to $15.00 per hour over time, certain counties and larger companies are set on faster schedules than others. A number of other cities and states across the country are also debating and enacting legislation to increase the minimum wage for low wage workers to a livable wage.
Some government entities, such as counties and cities, observe minimum wages that are higher than the state as a whole. In 2003 San Francisco, California and Santa Fe, New Mexico were the first two cities to introduce local minimum wage ordinances. Another device to increase wages locally are living wage ordinances, which generally apply only to businesses that are under contract to the local government itself. In 1994 Baltimore, Maryland was the first city in the United States to pass such a living wage ordinance. These targeted living wage ordinances for city contract workers have led in subsequent years to citywide local minimum wage laws which apply to all workers.
In the current wave of minimum wage legislative action, Seattle, Washington was the first city to pass on June 2, 2014 a local ordinance to increase the minimum wage for all workers to $15.00 per hour, which phases in over seven years. This ordinance followed the referendum in SeaTac, Washington in November 2013, which raised on a more limited scale the local minimum wage to $15.00 for transportation and hospitality workers. Numerous other cities have followed Seattle's example since. San Francisco became the first major city in the U.S. to reach a minimum wage of $15.00 per hour on July 1, 2018. New York City's minimum wage will be $15.00 per hour by the end of 2018. The minimum wage in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., will be $15.00 per hour in 2020. Similarly, the minimum wage in Minneapolis, Minnesota will be $15.00 per hour by 2022. A growing number of other California cities have also enacted local minimum wage ordinances to increase the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour, including Berkeley, El Cerrito, Emeryville, Mountain View, Oakland, Richmond, and San Jose.
Some minimum wage ordinances have an exemption for unionized workers. For instance, the Los Angeles City Council approved a minimum salary in 2014 for hotel workers of $15.37 per hour which has such an exemption. This led in some cases to longtime workers at unionized hotels such as the Sheraton Universal making $10.00 per hour, whereas non-union employees at a non-union Hilton less than 500 feet away making at least $15.37 as mandated by law for non-unionized employees. Similar exemptions have been adopted in other cities. As of December 2014, unions were exempt from minimum wage ordinances in Chicago, Illinois, SeaTac, Washington, and Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, as well as the California cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Long Beach, San Jose, Richmond, and Oakland. In 2016, the Washington, D.C. Council passed a minimum wage ordinance that included a union waiver, but Mayor Vincent Gray vetoed it. Later that year, the council approved an increase without the union waiver.
The federal minimum wage was introduced in 1938 at the rate of $0.25 per hour ($4.78 in 2018 dollars). By 1950 the minimum wage had risen to $0.75 per hour. The minimum wage had its highest purchasing power in 1968, when it was $1.60 per hour ($11.65 in 2018 dollars). From January 1981 to April 1990, the minimum wage was frozen at $3.35 per hour, then a record-setting minimum wage freeze. From September 1, 1997 through July 23, 2007, the federal minimum wage remained constant at $5.15 per hour, breaking the old record. In 2009 the minimum wage was adjusted to $7.25 where it has remained fixed for the past nine years.
The purchasing power of the federal minimum wage has fluctuated. Since 1984, the purchasing power of the federal minimum wage has decreased. Measured in real terms (adjusted for inflation) using 1984 dollars, the real minimum wage was $3.35 in 1984, $2.33 in 1994, $1.84 in 2004, and $1.46 in 2014. If the minimum wage had been raised to $10.10 in 2014, that would have equated to $4.40 in 1984 dollars. This would have been equal to a 31% increase in purchasing power, despite the nominal value of the minimum wage increasing by 216% in the same time period.
— Henry Ford, 1926
The economic effects of raising the minimum wage are controversial. Adjusting the minimum wage may affect current and future levels of employment, prices of goods and services, economic growth, income inequality, and poverty. The interconnection of price levels, central bank policy, wage agreements, and total aggregate demand creates a situation in which conclusions drawn from macroeconomic analysis are highly influenced by the underlying assumptions of the interpreter.
In neoclassical economics, the law of demand states that—all else being equal—raising the price of any particular good or service reduces the quantity demanded. Therefore, neoclassical economists argue that—all else being equal—raising the minimum wage will have adverse effects on employment. Conceptually, if an employer does not believe a worker generates value equal to or in excess of the minimum wage, they do not hire or retain that worker.
Other economists of different schools of thought argue that a limited increase in the minimum wage does not affect or increases the number of jobs available. Economist David Cooper for instance estimates that a higher minimum wage would support the creation of at least 85,000 new jobs in the United States. This divergence of thought began with empirical work on fast food workers in the 1990s which challenged the neoclassical model. In 1994, economists David Card and Alan Krueger studied employment trends among 410 restaurants in New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania following New Jersey's minimum wage hike (from $4.25 to $5.05) in April 1992. They found "no indication that the rise in the minimum wage reduced employment." In contrast, a 1995 analysis of the evidence by David Neumark found that the increase in New Jersey's minimum wage resulted in a 4.6% decrease in employment. Neumark's study relied on payroll records from a sample of large fast-food restaurant chains, whereas the Card-Krueger study relied on business surveys.
A literature review conducted by David Neumark and William Wascher in 2007 (which surveyed 101 studies related to the employment effects of minimum wages) found that about two-thirds of peer-reviewed economic research showed a positive correlation between minimum wage hikes and increased unemployment—especially for young and unskilled workers. Neumark's review further found that, when looking at only the most credible research, 85% of studies showed a positive correlation between minimum wage hikes and increased unemployment.
Statistical meta-analysis conducted by Tom Stanley in 2005 in contrast found that there is evidence of publication bias in minimum wage literature, and that correction of this bias shows no relationship between the minimum wage and unemployment. In 2008 Hristos Doucouliagos and Tom Stanley conducted a similar meta-analysis of 64 U.S. studies on disemployment effects and concluded that Card and Krueger's initial claim of publication bias was correct. Moreover, they concluded, "Once this publication selection is corrected, little or no evidence of a negative association between minimum wages and employment remains."
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in 2014 estimated the theoretical effects of a federal minimum wage increase under two scenarios: an increase to $9.00 and an increase to $10.10. According to the report, approximately 100,000 jobs would be lost under the $9.00 option, whereas 500,000 jobs would be lost under the $10.10 option (with a wide range of possible outcomes). The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) in contrast in 2013 found in a review of multiple studies since 2000 that there was "little or no employment response to modest increases in the minimum wage." CEPR found in a later study that job creation within the United States is faster within states that raised their minimum wage. In 2014 the state with the highest minimum wage in the nation, Washington, exceeded the national average for job growth in the United States. Washington had a job growth rate 0.3% faster than the national average job growth rate.
A 2012 study led by Joseph Sabia estimated that the 2004-6 New York State minimum wage increase (from $5.15 to $6.75) resulted in a 20.2% to 21.8% reduction in employment for less-skilled, less-educated workers. Similarly, a study led by Richard Burkhauser in 2000 concluded that minimum wage increases "significantly reduce the employment of the most vulnerable groups in the working-age population—young adults without a high school degree (aged 20-24), young black adults and teenagers (aged 16-24), and teenagers (aged 16-19)."
The Economist wrote in December 2013 in sum that: "A minimum wage, providing it is not set too high, could thus boost pay with no ill effects on jobs...Some studies find no harm to employment from federal or state minimum wages, others see a small one, but none finds any serious damage...High minimum wages, however, particularly in rigid labour markets, do appear to hit employment. France has the rich world's highest wage floor, at more than 60% of the median for adults and a far bigger fraction of the typical wage for the young. This helps explain why France also has shockingly high rates of youth unemployment: 26% for 15- to 24-year-olds."
Conceptually, raising the minimum wage increases the cost of labor, ceteris paribus. Thus, employers may accept lower profits, raise their prices, or both. If prices increase, consumers may demand a lesser quantity of the product, substitute other products, or switch to imported products, due to the effects of price elasticity of demand. Marginal producers (those who are barely profitable enough to survive) may be forced out of business if they cannot raise their prices sufficiently to offset the higher cost of labor. Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago research from 2007 has shown that restaurant prices rise in response to minimum wage increases. However, there are studies that show that higher prices for products due to increased labor cost are usually only by about 0.4% of the original price.
Effects on crime
A 2016 White House report based on "back of envelope calculations and literature review" argued that higher hourly wages led to less crime. The study by the Council of Economic Advisers calculated that "raising the minimum wage reduces crime by 3 to 5 percent." To get those numbers, the study assumed that "such a minimum wage increase would have no employment impacts, with an employment elasticity of 0.1 the benefits would be somewhat lower."
In contrast in a 1987 journal article, Masanori Hashimoto noted that minimum wage hikes lead to increased levels of property crime in areas affected by the minimum wage after its increase. According to the article, by decreasing employment in poor communities, total legal trade and production are curtailed. The report also argued that to compensate for the decrease in legal avenues for production and consumption, poor communities increasingly turn to illegal trade and activity.
Whether growth (GDP, a measure of both income and production) increases or decreases depends significantly on whether the income shifted from owners to workers results in an overall higher level of spending. The tendency of a consumer to spend their next dollar is referred to as the marginal propensity to consume or MPC. The transfer of income from higher income owners (who tend to save more, meaning a lower MPC) to lower income workers (who tend to save less, with a higher MPC) can actually lead to an increase in total consumption and higher demand for goods, leading to increased employment. Recent research has shown that higher wages lead to greater productivity.
The CBO reported in February 2014 that income (GDP) overall would be marginally higher after raising the minimum wage, indicating a small net positive increase in growth. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 and indexing it to inflation would result in a net $2 billion increase in income during the second half of 2016, while raising it to $9.00 and not indexing it would result in a net $1 billion increase in income.
An increase in the minimum wage is a form of redistribution from higher-income persons (business owners or "capital") to lower income persons (workers or "labor") and therefore should reduce income inequality. The CBO estimated in February 2014 that raising the minimum wage under either scenario described above would improve income inequality. Families with income more than 6 times the poverty threshold would see their incomes fall (due in part to their business profits declining with higher employee costs), while families with incomes below that threshold would rise.
Among hourly-paid workers In 2016, 701,000 earned the federal minimum wage and about 1.5 million earned wages below the minimum.Together, these 2.2 million workers represented 2.7% of all hourly-paid workers.
The CBO estimated in February 2014 that raising the minimum wage would reduce the number of persons below the poverty income threshold by 900,000 under the $10.10 option versus 300,000 under the $9.00 option. Similarly, Arindrajit Dube, professor of economics at University of Massachusetts Amherst, found in a 2017 study "robust evidence that higher minimum wages lead to increases in incomes among families at the bottom of the income distribution and that these wages reduce the poverty rate." According to the study "a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage reduces the nonelderly poverty rate by about 5 percent."
In contrast, research conducted by David Neumark and colleagues in 2004 found that minimum wages are associated with reductions in the hours and employment of low-wage workers. A separate study by the same researchers found that minimum wages tend to increase the proportion of families with incomes below or near the poverty line. Similarly, a 2002 study led by Richard Vedder, professor of economics at Ohio University, concluded that "The empirical evidence is strong that minimum wages have had little or no effect on poverty in the U.S. Indeed, the evidence is stronger that minimum wages occasionally increase poverty…"
Federal budget deficit
The CBO reported in February 2014 that "[T]he net effect on the federal budget of raising the minimum wage would probably be a small decrease in budget deficits for several years but a small increase in budget deficits thereafter. It is unclear whether the effect for the coming decade as a whole would be a small increase or a small decrease in budget deficits." On the cost side, the report cited higher wages paid by the government to some of its employees along with higher costs for certain procured goods and services. This might be offset by fewer government benefits paid, as some workers with higher incomes would receive fewer government transfer payments. On the revenue side, some would pay higher taxes and others less.
According to a survey conducted by economist Greg Mankiw, 79% of economists agreed that "a minimum wage increases unemployment among young and unskilled workers."
A 2015 survey conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center found that a majority of economists believes raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour would have negative effects on youth employment levels (83%), adult employment levels (52%), and the number of jobs available (76%). Additionally, 67% of economists surveyed believed that a $15 minimum wage would make it harder for small businesses with less than 50 employees to stay in business.
- 46.8% favored eliminating it
- 14.3% favored keeping it the same
- 1.3% favored decreasing it
- 5.2% favored increasing it by about 50 cents per hour
- 15.6% favored increasing it by about $1 per hour
- 16.9% favored increasing it by more than $1 per hour
In 2014, over 600 economists signed a letter in support of increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 with research suggesting that a minimum wage increase could have a small stimulative effect on the economy as low-wage workers spend their additional earnings, raising demand and job growth. Also, seven recipients of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences were among 75 economists endorsing an increase in the minimum wage for U.S. workers and said "the weight" of economic research shows higher pay doesn't lead to fewer jobs.
According to a February 2013 survey of the University of Chicago IGM Forum, which includes approximately 40 economists:
- 34% agreed with the statement that "Raising the federal minimum wage to $9 per hour would make it noticeably harder for low-skilled workers to find employment", with 32% disagreeing and 24% uncertain
- 42% agreed that "...raising the minimum wage to $9 per hour and indexing it to inflation...would be a desirable policy", with 11% disagreeing or strongly disagreeing and 32% uncertain.
According to a fall 2000 survey conducted by Fuller and Geide-Stevenson, 73.5% (27.9% of which agreed with provisos) of American economists surveyed[How many?] agreed that minimum wage laws increase unemployment among unskilled and young workers, while 26.5% disagreed with the statement.
Economist Paul Krugman advocated raising the minimum wage moderately in 2013, citing several reasons, including:
Major political parties
Democratic candidates, elected officials, and activists support an increase in the minimum wage. In his 2013 State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama called for an increase in the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour; several months later, Democrats Tom Harkin and George Miller proposed legislation to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10; and in 2015, congressional Democrats introduced a proposal to increase the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour. These efforts did not succeed, but increases in city and state minimum wages prompted congressional Democrats to continue fighting for an increase on the federal level. After much internal party debate, the party's official platform adopted at the 2016 Democratic National Convention stated: "We should raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over time and index it, give all Americans the ability to join a union regardless of where they work, and create new ways for workers to have power in the economy so every worker can earn at least $15 an hour."
Most Republican elected officials oppose action to increase the minimum wage, and have blocked Democratic efforts to increase the minimum wage. Republican leadership such as Speakers of the House John Boehner and Paul Ryan have opposed minimum wage increases. Some Republicans oppose having a minimum wage altogether, while a few, conversely, have supported minimum wage increases or indexing the minimum wage to inflation.
Former President Bill Clinton advocated raising the minimum wage in 2014: "I think we ought to raise the minimum wage because it doesn't just raise wages for the three or four million people who are directly affected by it, it bumps the wage structure everywhere...The estimates are that 35 million Americans would get a pay raise if the federal minimum wage was raised...If you [raise the minimum wage] in a phased way, it always creates jobs. Why? Because people who make the minimum wage or near it are struggling to get by, they spend every penny they make, they turn it over in the economy, they create jobs, they create opportunity, and they take better care of their children. It's just the right thing to do, but it's also very good economics."
The Pew Center reported in January 2014 that 73% of Americans supported raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10. By party, 53% of Republicans and 90% of Democrats favored this action. Pew found a racial difference for support of a higher minimum wage in 2017 with most blacks and Hispanics supporting a $15.00 federal minimum wage, and 54% of whites opposing it.
A Lake Research Partners poll in February 2012 found the following:
- Strong support overall for raising the minimum wage, with 73% of likely voters supporting an increase to $10 and indexing it to inflation during 2014, including 58% who strongly support the action;
- Support crosses party lines, with support from 91% of Democrats, 74% of Independents, and 50% of Republicans; and
- A majority (56%) believe that raising the minimum wage will help the economy, 16% believe it won't make a difference, and only 21% felt it would hurt the economy.
List by jurisdiction
This is a list of the minimum wages (per hour) in each state and territory of the United States, for jobs covered by federal minimum wage laws. If the job is not subject to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, then state, city, or other local laws may determine the minimum wage. A common exemption to the federal minimum wage is a company having revenue of less than $500,000 per year while not engaging in any interstate commerce.
Under the federal law, workers who receive a portion of their salary from tips, such as waitstaff, are required only to have their total compensation, including tips, meet the minimum wage. Therefore, often, their hourly wage, before tips, is less than the minimum wage. Seven states, and Guam, do not allow for a tip credit. Additional exemptions to the minimum wage include many seasonal employees, student employees, and certain disabled employees as specified by the FLSA.
In addition, some counties and cities within states may implement a higher minimum wage than the rest of their state. Sometimes this higher wage applies only to businesses that contract with the local government, while in other cases the higher minimum applies to all work.
|Type||Min. wage ($/h)||Notes|
|Tipped||$2.13||The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 has been requiring a minimum wage of $2.13 for tipped workers with the expectation that wages plus tips total no less than $7.25 per hour since September 1, 1991. The employer must pay the difference if total income does not add up to $7.25 per hour.|
|Non-tipped||$7.25||Per the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007 (FMWA) since July 24, 2009.|
|Youth||$4.25||The Fair Labor Standards Act has since September 1, 1996 allowed for persons under the age of 20 to be paid $4.25 for the first 90 calendar days of their employment .|
The average US minimum wage per capita (2017) is $8.49 based on the population size of each state and generally represents the average minimum wage experienced by a person working in one of the fifty US states. Cities, counties, districts, and territories are not included in the calculation. As of October 2016, there have been 29 states with a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum. From 2014 to 2015, nine states increased their minimum wage levels through automatic adjustments, while increases in 11 other states occurred through referendum or legislative action. Beginning in January 2017, Massachusetts and Washington state have the highest minimum wages in the country, at $11.00 per hour. New York City's minimum wage will be $15.00 per hour by the end of 2018.
|Automatic indexed adjustment||Notes|
|Alaska||$9.84||$9.84||Yes||Minimum wage increased to $9.84 on January 1, 2018.|
|Arizona||$10.50||$7.50||Yes||Voters passed Proposition 206 in 2016 to schedule a series of wage increases starting with $10.00/hour in 2017, $10.50 in 2018, $11.00 in 2019, $12.00 in 2020 and every year afterwards will be tied to inflation.|
|Arkansas||$8.50||$2.63||No||Minimum wage increased to $8.50 on January 1, 2017. The rate applies to employers of four or more employees.|
|California||$11.00||$11.00||Yes||Minimum wage increased to $11.00 for business with 26 employees or more; $10.50 for business with 25 employees or fewer, effective on January 1, 2018 and increases to $15.00 by 2022. At least 20 California cities will have a minimum wage higher than the state minimum on January 1, 2018. Berkeley: $13.75 since October 1, 2017 and increases to $15.00 by 2018. El Cerrito: $13.60 since January 1, 2018 and increases to $15.00 by 2019. Emeryville: $15.69 for businesses with 56 or more employees; $15.00 for businesses with 55 employees or fewer, effective July 2018. Jackson Rancheria: $10.60 since January 1, 2014 on the Tribe's sovereign 1,500-acre reservation in Amador County. Oakland: $13.23 since January 1, 2018; unions are exempt from Oakland's minimum wage law. Los Angeles: $13.25 for businesses with 26 or more employees. $12.00 for businesses with 25 employees or fewer since July 1, 2018 and increases to $15.00 by 2020. Unions are exempt from Los Angeles's minimum wage law. San Francisco: $15.00 since July 1, 2018 and adjusts with Consumer Price Index (CPI) increases July 1st each following year; unions are exempt from San Francisco's minimum wage law. San Jose: $13.50 since January 1, 2018; unions are exempt from San Jose's minimum wage law. San Diego: $11.50 since January 1, 2017.|
|Colorado||$10.20||$7.18||Yes||On January 1, 2018, the minimum wage increased to $10.20 and will increase annually by $0.90 until it becomes $12 in January 2020. Starting in 2021, it will be adjusted in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The tipped wage is $3.02 less than the minimum wage.|
|Connecticut||$10.10||$6.59||No||On March 26, 2014, the state passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 by January 1, 2017. Connecticut's tipped minimum wage is 65.2% of the state minimum wage (tipped employees defined as $10/week or $2/day in tips).|
|Delaware||$8.25||$2.23||No||Minimum wage increased to $8.25 on June 1, 2015.|
|Florida||$8.25||$5.23||Yes||Minimum wage is increased annually on September 30 (effective January 1 of the following calendar year) based upon a cost of living formula (the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, not seasonally adjusted, for the South Region or a successor index as calculated by the United States Department of Labor, using the rate of inflation for the 12 months prior to September 1). Florida's minimum wage increased to $8.10 and the tipped minimum wage to $5.08 on January 1, 2017.|
|Georgia||$5.15||$2.13||No||Only applicable to employers of 6 or more employees. The state law excludes from coverage any employment that is subject to the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act when the federal rate is greater than the state rate.|
|Hawaii||$10.10||$9.35||No||Minimum wage increased to $10.10 on January 1, 2018. Tipped employees earn 75 cents less than the current state minimum wage.|
|Illinois||$8.25||$4.95||$7.75||No||Employers may pay anyone under the age of 18, or anyone for the first 90 days of employment, fifty cents less. Tipped employees earn 60% of the minimum wage (employers may claim credit for tips, up to 40% of wage). There is a training wage for tipped employees. Chicago: $12.00 from July 1, 2018 and increases to $13.00 by 2019. Unions are exempt from Chicago's minimum wage law.|
|Iowa||$7.25||$4.35||No||Most small retail and service establishments grossing less than $300,000 annually are not required to pay the minimum wage. A tipped employee who makes $30.00 per month or more in tips, can be paid 60% of the minimum wage, i.e. as little as $4.35 per hour. Increased minimum wage laws in Johnson and Linn counties were nullified by the legislature.|
|Kansas||$7.25||$2.13||No||Kansas had the lowest legislated, non-tipped worker minimum wage in the U.S., $2.65 per hour, until it was raised to $7.25, effective January 1, 2010.|
|Kentucky||$7.25||$2.13||No||Louisville: $8.10 from July 1, 2015 and increases to $9.00 by 2017. However, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that localities do not have authority to increase the minimum wage.|
|Maine||$10.00||$5.00||Yes||Tipped rate is half of the current state minimum wage. On July 6, 2015, the city council of Portland voted 6-3 to raise the city's minimum wage to $10.10 beginning on January 1, 2016 – an increase of 34%. Note: The tipped wage returns to 50% of the regular minimum wage starting January 1, 2018. Minimum wage will increase to $10 in January 2018, $11 in January 2019, and $12 in January 2020.|
|Maryland||$10.10||$3.63||No||Minimum wage is $10.10 as of July 1, 2018.
For employees working in Prince George's County, the minimum wage is $11.50 per hour, effective October 1, 2017.
For employees working in Montgomery County, the minimum wage is $12.00 per hour for businesses with 50 or fewer employees. $12.25 per hour for businesses with 51 or more employees effective July 1, 2018. County Council bill 12-16 was enacted on January 17, 2017 to adjust the minimum wage to $15 and base future adjustments on the Consumer Price Index, but was later vetoed by the County Executive.
|Massachusetts||$11.00||$3.75||No||Minimum wage increased to $11.00 ($3.75 for tipped workers) on January 1, 2017. Massachusetts is the only state in the country that mandates time-and-a-half for retail workers working on Sunday. With state minimum wage at $11 an hour the effective minimum wage for a retail worker working on Sunday is $16.50 an hour. As of 2017, Massachusetts has the largest gap between the hourly minimum wage for tipped workers ($3.75) and the general minimum wage ($11).|
|Michigan||$9.25||$3.52||$4.25 (training) $7.86 (youth)||Yes||Annual minimum wage increases, linked to the Consumer Price Index, will start on February 1, 2019, and shall not exceed 3.5%. There is no increase in minimum wage if the unemployment rate rises to or above 8.5% in the previous year. Tipped workers must earn at least standard Michigan minimum wage once tips are included in their wages.|
|Minnesota||$9.65||$9.65||$7.87 (for small employers, training, youth and J-1 Visas)||Yes||Small employers, whose annual receipts are less than $500,000 and who do not engage in interstate commerce, can pay their employees $7.25 per hour. Overtime applies after 48 hours per week. Note: For large employers, the minimum wage became $9.65 on January 1, 2018. For small employers, the minimum wage became $7.87 on January 1, 2018. Beginning January 1, 2018, all minimum wage rates will increase by the national implicit price deflator or 2.5%, whichever is lower.|
|Missouri||$7.85||$3.925||Yes||Minimum wage rate is automatically adjusted annually based on the U.S. Consumer Price Index rounded to the nearest five cents, and increased to $7.85 on January 1, 2018. While a city ordinance was passed in the St. Louis area to increase the minimum wage to $8.25 in 2015, in October 2015 the law was voided by a new statewide bill barring cities from setting their own minimum wages. The State Supreme Court ruled on 28 February 2017 that the ordinance was lawful and could go into effect, with the minimum wage rate set to rise to $11.00 an hour by 2018 in St. Louis. However, on July 5, 2017, another law was passed to nullify the increase and to have a statewide minimum wage of $7.70.|
|Montana||$8.30||$8.30||Yes||Minimum wage rate is automatically adjusted annually based on the U.S. Consumer Price Index, and increased to $8.30 on January 1, 2018. Income from tips cannot offset an employee's pay rate. The state minimum wage for business with less than $110,000 in annual sales is $4.00.|
|Nebraska||$9.00||$2.13||No||Minimum wage increased to $9.00 January 1, 2016.|
|Nevada||$8.25||$8.25||Yes||The minimum wage has been $8.25 ($1 higher than the federal minimum) since July 1, 2010. Employers who offer health benefits can pay employees $7.25. The rate is adjusted every July 1, based on the federal minimum or the accumulated inflation since 2006, whichever is higher, based on a 2006 Minimum Wage Amendment to the Nevada Constitution.|
|New Jersey||$8.60||$2.13||Yes||Minimum wage increased to $8.60 on January 1, 2018.|
|New Mexico||$7.50||$2.13||No||Santa Fe: $10.84 since January 1, 2015. Albuquerque: $8.75 since January 1, 2015.|
|New York||$10.40||Varies||Yes||The minimum wage rate increased to $9.00 on December 31, 2015. As of July 24, 2009 there has been a minimum for exempt employees of $543.75 per week. Tipped employee minimum ranges from $4.90 to $5.65 depending on industry. Effective December 31, 2013, there have been different rules for the minimum cash wage for tipped employees outside of the hospitality industry, (e.g., in car washes and in salons). For workers earning more than $1.95 on average per hour in tips, the minimum cash wage has been $6.05 per hour; for workers earning between $1.20 and $1.95 in tips on average per hour, the cash wage has been $6.80.
A 2016 law changed the minimum wage over the following six years. "Large" employers have 11 or more employees, and "small" have between 1 and 10. "Downstate" includes Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties. NYC large employers: $11.00, NYC small employers: $10.50, Downstate employers: $10.00, Upstate employers: $9.70. As of December 31, 2017: NYC large employers: $13.00; NYC small employers: $12.00; Downstate employers: $11.00; Upstate employers: $10.40. As of December 31, 2018: NYC large employers: $15.00; NYC small employers: $13.50; Downstate employers: $12.00; Upstate employers: $11.10. As of December 31, 2019: NYC large employers: $15.00; NYC small employers: $15.00; Downstate employers: $13.00; Upstate employers: $12.50. As of December 31, 2020: NYC large employers: $15.00; NYC small employers: $15.00; Downstate employers: $14.00; Upstate employers: $12.50. As of December 31, 2021: NYC large employers: $15.00; NYC small employers: $15.00; Downstate employers: $15.00; Upstate employers: Set by Commissioner of Labor based on economic conditions, up to $15.00.
Tipped food service workers will be paid $7.50 per hour, or two-thirds of the applicable minimum wage rate rounded to the nearest $0.05, whichever is higher.
|North Carolina||$7.25||$2.13||No||The employer may take credit for tips earned by a tipped employee and may count them as wages up to the amount permitted in section 3(m) of the Fair Labor Standards Act.|
|North Dakota||$7.25||$4.86||No||Tipped minimum is 67% of the minimum wage.|
|Ohio||$8.30||$4.15||$7.25 under 16 years old||Yes||The rate is $7.25 for employers grossing $299,000 or less. The rate is adjusted annually on January 1 based on the U.S. Consumer Price Index. Ohio's minimum wage will increase to $8.30 ($4.15 for tipped employees) on January 1, 2018|
|Oklahoma||$7.25||$2.13||No||Minimum wage for employers grossing under $100,000 and with fewer than 10 employees per location is $2.00. (OK Statutes 40-197.5).|
|Oregon||$10.50 (rural counties)
$10.75 (non-rural counties)
$12.00 (Portland metro)
|$10.50 (rural counties)
$10.75 (non-rural counties)
$12.00 (Portland metro)
|Yes||On March 2, 2016, Senate Bill 1532 was signed into law, increasing minimum wage depending on the county. Beginning July 1, 2018 the minimum wage increased to $10.75 for non-rural counties and to $10.50 for rural counties, thereafter increasing each year by fixed amounts until June 30, 2022 when the minimum wage will be $14.75 for the Portland metro area, $13.50 for other non-rural counties, and $12.50 for rural counties. Thereafter, the minimum wage will be adjusted each year based on the U.S. Consumer Price Index. Non-rural counties are defined as Benton, Clackamas, Clatsop, Columbia, Deschutes, Hood River, Jackson, Josephine, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, Tillamook, Wasco, Washington, and Yamhill counties. Rural counties are defined as Baker, Coos, Crook, Curry, Douglas, Gilliam, Grant, Harney, Jefferson, Klamath, Lake, Malheur, Morrow, Sherman, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa, Wheeler counties. The Portland Metro rate ($1.25 over the non-rural rate) applies to employers located within the urban growth boundary (UGB) of the Portland metropolitan service district.|
|Rhode Island||$10.10||$3.89||No||Minimum wage is $10.10 as of January 1, 2018. The minimum wage will increase to $10.50 as of January 1, 2019.|
|South Dakota||$8.85||$4.425||Yes||Minimum wage increased to $8.85 on January 1, 2018, and is indexed to inflation.|
|Texas||$7.25||$2.13||No||Applies to all workers in the state, excluding patients of the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation who have diminished production capacity and who work on behalf of the Department; their salary is calculated at the minimum wage times a percentage of their diminished capacity.|
|Vermont||$10.50||$5.25||Yes||Minimum wage increased to $10.50 on January 1, 2018 and will be indexed to inflation beginning on January 1, 2019.|
|Washington||$11.50||$11.50||$9.78||Yes||Minimum wage increases annually by a voter-approved cost-of-living adjustment based on the federal Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). Seattle: $11.00 for businesses with fewer than 500 employees, $15.00 for businesses with 500 employees or more, and for all businesses by 2021. SeaTac: $15.00 for airport-related businesses. Union workshops are exempt from SeaTac's $15 minimum wage law.|
|West Virginia||$8.75||$2.62||No||Minimum wage increased to $8.75 on December 31, 2015. The state minimum wage is applicable to employers of six or more employees at one location not involved in interstate commerce and for tipped employees is 30% of the federal minimum wage.|
- Generally applies to employees who make over $30 in tips per month, unless otherwise noted.
- Applies to persons under age 20, for the first 90 days of employment (per FMWA), unless otherwise noted.
- No state minimum wage law. Federal rates apply, although some small businesses exempt from FMWA may not be covered.
|Territory||Min. wage ($/h)||Tipped||Notes|
|American Samoa||$4.58–$5.99||$2.13||Varies by industry. On September 30, 2010, President Obama signed legislation that delays scheduled wage increases for 2010 and 2011. On July 26, 2012, President Obama signed S. 2009 into law, postponing the minimum wage increase for 2012, 2013, and 2014. Annual wage increases of $0.40 recommenced on September 30, 2015 and will continue every three years until all rates have reached the federal minimum.|
|Northern Mariana Islands||$7.05||$2.13||Since September 30, 2016. Wages are to go up $0.50 annually until reaching the federal $7.25 rate by 2018. Bill S. 256 to delay the planned increases to the full rate until 2018 passed in Sept. 2013.|
|Puerto Rico||$7.25||$2.13||Following the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007, Employers covered by the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) are subject to the federal minimum wage and all applicable regulations. Employers not covered by the FLSA will be subject to a minimum wage that is at least 70 percent of the federal minimum wage or the applicable mandatory decree rate, whichever is higher. The Secretary of Labor and Human Resources may authorize a rate based on a lower percentage for any employer who can show that implementation of the 70 percent rate would substantially curtail employment in that business. Puerto Rico also has minimum wage rates that vary according to the industry. These rates range from a minimum of $5.08 to $7.25 per hour.|
|U.S. Virgin Islands||$10.50||$4.20||The Virgin Islands' minimum wage increased to $9.50 on June 1, 2017 for all employees, with the exception of tourist service and restaurant employees (or those businesses with gross annual receipts of less than $150,000 set at $4.30). It further increased to $10.50 on June 1, 2018.|
|Federal District||Min. wage
|District of Columbia||$13.25||$4.17||None||In accordance with a law signed on June 27, 2016, the minimum wage increased to $13.25 per hour as of July 1, 2018; $14.00 per hour as of July 1, 2019; and $15.00 per hour as of July 1, 2020. As of each successive July 1, the minimum wage will increase by the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers in the Washington Metropolitan Statistical Area for the preceding twelve months.
The minimum wage established by the federal government may be paid to newly hired individuals during their first 90 calendar days of employment, students employed by colleges and universities, and individuals under 18 years of age.
Low-paying occupations, 2006 and 2009
Jobs that a minimum wage is most likely to directly affect are those that pay close to the minimum.
According to the May 2006 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, the four lowest-paid occupational sectors in May 2006 (when the federal minimum wage was $5.15 per hour) were the following:
|Sector||Workers employed||Median wage||Mean wage||Mean annual|
|Food preparation and serving related occupations||11,029,280||$7.90||$8.86||$18,430|
|Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations||450,040||$8.63||$10.49||$21,810|
|Personal care and service occupations||3,249,760||$9.17||$11.02||$22,920|
|Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations||4,396,250||$9.75||$10.86||$22,580|
Two years later, in May 2008, when the federal minimum wage was $5.85 per hour and was about to increase to $6.55 per hour in July 2008, these same sectors were still the lowest-paying, but their situation (according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data) was:
|Sector||Workers employed||Median wage||Mean wage||Mean annual|
|Food preparation and serving related occupations||11,438,550||$8.59||$9.72||$20,220|
|Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations||438,490||$9.34||$11.32||$23,560|
|Personal care and service occupations||3,437,520||$9.82||$11.59||$24,120|
|Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations||4,429,870||$10.52||$11.72||$24,370|
|Occupation||Workers employed||Median wage||Mean wage||Mean annual|
|Waiters and waitresses||2,312,930||$3.14||$4.27||$11,190|
|Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food||2,461,890||$7.24||$7.66||$15,930|
|Dining room and cafeteria attendants and bartender helpers||401,790||$7.36||$7.84||$16,320|
|Cooks, fast food||612,020||$7.41||$7.67||$15,960|
|Ushers, lobby attendants, and ticket takers||101,530||$7.64||$8.41||$17,500|
|Counter attendants, cafeteria, food concession, and coffee shop||524,410||$7.76||$8.15||$16,950|
|Hosts and hostesses, restaurant, lounge, and coffee shop||340,390||$7.78||$8.10||$16,860|
|Amusement and recreation attendants||235,670||$7.83||$8.43||$17,530|
|Farmworkers and laborers, crop, nursery, and greenhouse||230,780||$7.95||$8.48||$17,630|
|Occupation||Workers employed||Median wage||Mean wage||Mean annual|
|Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food||2,708,840||$7.90||$8.36||$17,400|
|Sector||Workers employed||Median wage||Mean wage||Mean annual|
|Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food||2,695,740||$8.28||$8.71||$18,120|
|Waiters and waitresses||2,302,070||$8.50||$9.80||$20,380|
|Dining room and cafeteria attendants and bartender helpers||402,020||$8.51||$9.09||$18,900|
|Cooks, fast food||539,520||$8.52||$8.76||$18,230|
- Average worker's wage
- Fair Labor Standards Act
- History of labor law in the United States
- Income inequality in the United States
- List of minimum wages by country
- Living wage
- Maximum wage
- Minimum Wage Fixing Convention, 1970
- Minimum wage law
- United States labor law
- Wage slavery
- Wage theft
- Working poor
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Feb, 1968 – $1.60 converted to May, 2018 dollars → $11.77
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