Workforce

New Year brings higher minimum wages in 22 states

Steeper increases were seen among 69 municipalities and counties that also raised their pay floors. Here's a look at where the wage is highest.
The $20-an-hour barrier was broken in Tukwala, Wash. | Photo: Shutterstock

Twenty-two states and nearly 70 local jurisdictions have updated the minimum wages that restaurateurs and other employers will be required to pay in the New Year. Spoiler alert: Every one of them is higher.

The increases have made the national picture even more of a patchwork in terms of what restaurateurs are obliged to pay. Along the coasts, employers may look back wistfully at demands the wage floor be raised to $15 an hour. That once-unimaginable threshold has been outstripped in Washington and California on the West Coast, with Oregon just 80 cents behind.

With few exceptions, the $15 mark has been hit or surpassed on the East Coast from Massachusetts down to Washington, D.C.

In contrast, 19 states have held to the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour, though executives of national restaurant chains contend that few employers are actually paying wages that low amid current market conditions.

The two Washingtons—the district and the state—share the distinction of having the highest minimum wages in the nation, with pay floors of $17 and $16.28, respectively. But there’s an asterisk to the rankings: On April 1, 527,000 employees of fast-food restaurants in California will be entitled to a minimum wage of $20 an hour, provided their employer is part of a chain with at least 60 branches nationwide.

In anticipation of the April increase, two Pizza Hut franchisees within the state have already disclosed plans to eliminate self-delivery and lay off 1,000 on-staff drivers.

The situation in California underscores a trend that’s evident in a review of 2024’s wage hikes, especially on the West Coast. While the three coastal states have all raised their pay floors, far bigger increases have come at the municipal or county level. The website Minimum-wage.org compiled a list of 48 local jurisdictions whose minimum wages will surpass $16 an hour in 2024. Forty of those areas are in California, whose statewide minimum is $16 for most workers.

Similarly, California is one of four states that have different minimum wages for different professions. New York, for instance, has a minimum direct wage for tipped foodservice workers, as opposed to other service workers who are normally tipped. And servers or bartenders working in counties in and around New York City are entitled to a higher minimum than their colleagues working elsewhere.

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