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Oregon minimum wage will increase to $9.25 in 2015

Oregon's minimum wage will increase 15 cents to $9.25 an hour in 2015, state labor officials announced Wednesday.

The change arrives amid a national debate over the minimum wage. Starting Jan. 1, Oregon employers must pay workers at least $2 an hour above the federal wage floor.

Oregon has the nation's second-highest minimum wage, behind only Washington. The rates in both states are tied to inflation, so they are adjusted every year in an attempt to keep pace with the cost of living.

The raise will affect an estimated 142,000 workers in Oregon. "It's significant for them because that's about $234 (more) a year that their families will get in order to meet the expenses that they need to meet," said Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian.

As it stands, more than 103,000 jobs in Oregon pay at or below the current minimum wage of $9.15 an hour. That amounts to 6 percent of all jobs statewide, according to the Oregon Employment Department. Many of the jobs are concentrated among restaurants, entertainment venues and retailers, where schedules often vary week to week.

Yet even if workers are employed full-time and year-round at the 2015 minimum wage, their collective paychecks will still be about $800 short of $20,000 by the end of the year. With one parent working a minimum-wage job, a family of three could still land below the poverty level.

That reality has sparked a nationwide push for "living wages." Some cities and states have reacted by requiring employers to pay workers more. But critics contend that increasing labor costs could slow job growth and cut into business revenues.

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