How minimum wage compares across every state in America

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January 18, 2018
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How minimum wage compares across every state in America

Nearly 4.5 million U.S. workers got a salary bump on Jan. 1, 2018, when new minimum wage laws went into effect in 18 states and 19 cities. Many Americans hailed the higher wages as a step in the right direction; after all, the United States has the lowest relative minimum wage of any advanced democracy, according to the Washington Post. Yet the minimum wage debate is far from over, and since the beginning of the new year, experts have been arguing especially fervently on both sides of the issue.

Currently, the federal minimum wage is $7.25, a number that’s been at a standstill since it was set by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in 2009. Some exceptions apply to that rule: workers must be paid 1.5 times the standard wage if they work more than 40 hours a week, tipped employees can be paid just $2.13 per hour so long as they make at least the federal minimum wage after tips and a few groups — high school students in vocational school, full time students, workers younger than 20 and disabled people — can be paid less than the minimum wage under specific conditions.

Twenty-nine states and Washington, D.C., have chosen to set their own, higher rates. Cities too can set their own minimum wages, and some companies, among the biggest of which are Walmart and Target, have decided to pay higher-than-required minimum wages.

Studies on the subject of minimum wage have reported conflicting results, as shown by the Washington Post’s roundup of studies regarding city- and state-level minimum wage hikes. USA Today reported that even if minimum wage workers made $11 an hour, many families would still find it difficult to make ends meet. But others argue that raising the minimum wage means killing jobs, as employers decide may decide they simply can’t afford to give workers the same number of hours while simultaneously paying them more. We looked at laws in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., to compare the paychecks for minimum wage workers across America.

#51. Tennessee

State minimum wage: none

As one of six states with no state minimum wage law on the books, Tennessee pays its minimum wage workers the $7.25 an hour federal rate. Tennessee also boasts the highest proportion of minimum wage workers in the country: about 7.4 percent of Tennessee’s hourly workers make $7.25 an hour or less, compared to 4.3 percent of the national workforce.

#50. Mississippi

State minimum wage: none

Mississippi also has no state minimum wage law, so workers are subject to the $7.25 an hour federal standard. At that pay rate, full-time workers can expect to take home $15,080 a year.

#49. Alabama

State minimum wage: none

With no state minimum wage, Alabama is subject to the federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 an hour. In addition, cities and towns in Alabama aren’t allowed to set their own higher minimum wages, thanks to a 2016 state bill created to bar Birmingham from raising its minimum wage to $10.10.

#48. South Carolina

State minimum wage: none

A bill to raise the South Carolina minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020 died in a state Senate subcommittee in 2016. As a result, the minimum wage in the state sits at $7.25.

#47. Louisiana

State minimum wage: none

Louisiana has also stuck with the federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 an hour. A state Senate bill to raise the wage to $8 an hour in 2018 and $8.50 an hour in 2019 failed in committee last year.

#46. New Hampshire

State minimum wage: none

New Hampshire has the distinction of being the only New England state with a minimum wage rate of less than $10 an hour (defaulting to the Federal $7.25/hour, but officially "none"). State lawmakers have made multiple attempts to raise the minimum wage rate in the last few years; the latest efforts failed in March 2017.

#45. Wyoming

State minimum wage: $5.15

Wyoming shares with Georgia the dubious distinction of having the lowest state minimum wage at $5.15 an hour, although by law, minimum wage workers in Wyoming usually take home the comparatively higher federal rate of $7.25 an hour. State representatives tried last January to raise the state rate to meet the federal rate, but ultimately did not succeed.

#44. Georgia

State minimum wage: $5.15

Along with Wyoming, Georgia has the lowest state minimum wage at $5.15 an hour, which means that the higher federal rate of $7.25 applies to most minimum wage workers in the state. Last year, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced that the minimum wage for workers in his city would go up to $13 an hour in July 2018, then $15 an hour a year later.

#43. North Carolina

State minimum wage: $7.25

North Carolina has stuck with the federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 an hour for the last 9 years. About 38,000 workers in North Carolina make the federal minimum wage, not including tipped workers.

#42. Kansas

State minimum wage: $7.25

Kansas’ state minimum wage is now set by the federal minimum wage rate of $7.25, but that wasn’t the case in years past. Until 2010, Kansas’ state minimum wage was $2.65, the lowest in the nation at the time.

#41. Idaho

State minimum wage: $7.25

Idaho pays its minimum wage workers the federal rate of $7.25 an hour. Repeated efforts to raise the state minimum wage rate in recent years have not proven successful.

#40. Kentucky

State minimum wage: $7.25

Kentucky’s minimum wage has stood at the federal rate of $7.25 since 2009. The city of Louisville raised its own minimum wage to $8.25 in July 2016 and planned to raise it to $9 by July 2017, but its higher rates were declared “invalid and unenforceable” by the Kentucky Supreme Court early last year.


#39. North Dakota

State minimum wage: $7.25

North Dakota adheres to the $7.25 an hour federal minimum wage rate. A legislative effort to raise the rate to $9.25 last year failed in a state House committee.

#38. Iowa

State minimum wage: $7.25

A handful of Iowa counties either raised their minimum wages or passed legislation to raise them in recent years, with new hourly rates ranging from $8.20 to $10.10 an hour. However, those new rates were brought back in line with the $7.25 federal rate when Iowa’s governor last year signed a law banning local governments from raising the minimum wage.

#37. Wisconsin

State minimum wage: $7.25

Wisconsin’s state minimum wage currently matches the federal rate, though that may change in 2018. Late last year, two state legislators introduced a bill to raise the state minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next five years.

#36. Indiana

State minimum wage: $7.25

Indiana’s state minimum wage is set at the federal rate of $7.25. Some state lawmakers want to change that rate to $15 an hour, though they said their efforts are a long shot.

#35. Virginia

State minimum wage: $7.25

Some Virginia lawmakers are working to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022. At the moment, Virginia’s state minimum wage rate is set at the federal rate.

#34. Texas

State minimum wage: $7.25

Texas also sets its state minimum wage by the federal rate. While there are no concrete plans to raise that rate, Texas’ largest private employer, Walmart, announced plans to raise its starting hourly pay rate to $11 an hour beginning in February 2018.

#33. Utah

State minimum wage: $7.25

At $7.25 an hour, Utah’s minimum wage is the same as the federal rate. A pair of bills introduced in the state’s House this month seeks to raise the state minimum wage to $12 by 2022. Similar bills, however, have failed as recently as last year.

#32. Oklahoma

State minimum wage: $7.25

Oklahoma’s minimum wage is also tied to the federal rate of $7.25—for now. One Oklahoma state representative has filed legislation for the 2018 session to raise that rate to $11 an hour.

#31. Pennsylvania

State minimum wage: $7.25

Pennsylvania’s current state minimum wage matches the federal rate of $7.25. However, a bill to more than double that rate by raising the state minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024 is expected to be considered by state lawmakers this year.

#30. New Mexico

State minimum wage: $7.50

New Mexico’s minimum wage workers make $7.50 an hour — a quarter higher than the federal rate. Last year, the state’s governor vetoed bills to raise the state minimum wage to $9 an hour or more. However, a handful of urban areas in New Mexico (Bernalillo, Santa Fe, Las Cruces and Albuquerque) already pay their workers higher rates.

#29. Missouri

State minimum wage: $7.85

Missouri’s minimum wage surpassed the federal rate in 2008, when the state raised the hourly pay from $6.65 to $7.85. Last August, Kansas City voters tried to raise the city minimum wage to $10 an hour, but were derailed by a state law that overrides city laws.

#28. Illinois

State minimum wage: $8.25

Illinois pays its minimum wage workers $8.25 an hour, a full dollar above the federal rate. Those who work in Chicago make even more. The minimum wage in the Windy City is currently $11 per hour; in 2019, that rate will rise to $13 per hour.

#27. Nevada

State minimum wage: $8.25/$7.25

Minimum wage workers in Nevada make $8.25 an hour, although employers who offer their workers health plans can opt to pay workers the federal rate of $7.25. Nevada’s minimum wage rate is tied to the cost of living, and is thus re-evaluated on an annual basis.

#26. Delaware

State minimum wage: $8.25

Delaware’s minimum wage reached its current rate of $8.25 per hour in 2015. Efforts to further increase the rate have proven unsuccessful so far.

#25. Florida

State minimum wage: $8.25

Florida’s minimum wage went up 15 cents with the new year to reach $8.25 an hour. However, Democratic gubernatorial candidates have championed raising the minimum wage.

#24. Montana

State minimum wage: $8.30/$4.00

Despite less than one percent of the state’s workers earning minimum wage, Montana was one of the 18 states that celebrated new, higher minimum wage rates on Jan. 1. At $8.30 an hour, the new minimum wage is a 15-cent increase over previous years.

#23. Ohio

State minimum wage: $8.30

About 146,000 Ohio minimum wage workers saw their hourly wages go up by 15 cents and hit $8.30 on January 1. Tipped employees also got a pay boost, with their hourly rates going up from $4.08 to $4.15.

#22. Arkansas

State minimum wage: $8.50

Arkansas raised its minimum wage rate by a dollar in January 2017 to its current rate of $8.50. Soon after, some lawmakers tried to pass a bill to prevent cities and counties from setting their own higher minimum wage rates, but the effort failed.

#21. New Jersey

State minimum wage: $8.60

New Jersey ties its state minimum wage to the consumer price index, adjusting the rate annually to account for inflation. The state minimum wage, which affects about 300,000 workers, went up 16 cents on Jan. 1, reaching $8.60 an hour.

#20. West Virginia

State minimum wage: $8.75

West Virginia raised its minimum wage by 75 cents to $8.75 an hour back in January 2016, boosting the annual pay of a full-time minimum wage worker to $18,200. The increase was part of a two-year plan, starting with an increase from $7.25 to $8 per hour in January 2015.

#19. South Dakota

State minimum wage: $8.85

South Dakota’s minimum wage, adjusted annually to reflect changes in the cost of living, went up by 20 cents at the beginning of this year to hit $8.85 an hour. But because unemployment rates in the state are low, most employers are expected to pay above that rate.

#18. Nebraska

State minimum wage: $9.00

Since January 2016, Nebraska’s minimum wage has been $9 an hour. That’s thanks to a successful 2014 ballot initiative that first raised the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $8 in 2015, then increased it by another dollar the following year.

#17. Maryland

State minimum wage: $9.25

Maryland’s minimum wage has been $9.25 an hour since July 2017, but come July 2018, that rate will go up  to $10.10 an hour. Workers in Prince George’s County make an even higher rate of $11.50.

#16. Michigan

State minimum wage: $9.25

Michigan minimum wage workers saw their wages reach $9.25 an hour with the start of 2018. That’s up 35 cents from the previous rate of $8.90 per hour. Efforts to raise the state minimum wage even higher are underway, however, with one group calling for $12 an hour by 2022.

#15. Minnesota

State minimum wage: $9.65/$7.87

Minnesota is another state that adjusts its minimum wage rates annually for inflation. At the beginning of 2018, the state’s rate went up 15 cents from $9.50 to $9.65 an hour. However, businesses with an annual gross revenue of less than $500,000 saw their minimum wage rates go up a more modest amount, from $7.75 to $7.87.

#14. Alaska

State minimum wage: $9.84

2018 brought a tiny increase to the paychecks of minimum wage workers in Alaska, whose hourly rates were boosted by 4 cents on Jan. 1. The small raise — which brings the rate to $9.84 an hour — was the state’s annual adjustment to the wage rate to account for inflation.

#13. Maine

State minimum wage: $10.00

Maine’s minimum wage went up to $10 an hour on Jan. 1, giving a raise to about 59,000 Mainers. The higher rate is part of a minimum wage law enacted in 2016 that will raise the minimum wage a dollar per year until it hits $12 in 2020.  

#12. Hawaii

State minimum wage: $10.10

Hawaii is yet another state that raised its minimum wage on New Year’s Day. Minimum wage workers there saw their hourly wages go up by 85 cents to hit $10.10. The jump is the final boost from a 2014 law that set annual minimum wage rate increases. New bills to continue hiking up the rate have already been introduced in the state legislature.

#11. Rhode Island

State minimum wage: $10.10

Rhode Island bumped up its minimum wage rate by 50 cents on Jan. 1, raising it from $9.60 to $10.10. The raise is part of a two-year plan that will end in January 2019, when the rate will be raised again to reach $10.50.

#10. Connecticut

State minimum wage: $10.10

Connecticut raised its minimum wage to $10.10 an hour in Jan. 2017 as the final step in its three-year plan to increase its minimum wage. The state was the first to pass a $10.10 minimum wage law; some workers in Connecticut have been calling for a $15 an hour rate.

#9. Colorado

State minimum wage: $10.20

Colorado’s minimum wage was raised to $10.20 an hour on Jan. 1, up from $9.30. The raise came as part of Colorado’s plan to increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020. That plan isn’t without controversy; some business owners — especially restaurateurs — argue that the wage hike is causing layoffs.

#8. Oregon

State minimum wage: $10.25

Oregon actually has three different minimum wages. $10.25 an hour is considered the standard rate, but the rate goes up to $11.25 an hour in the Portland metro area and down to $10 an hour in nonurban counties. The state’s standard minimum wage rate will go up to $13.50 by July 2022, thanks to a 2016 bill that established a series of annual increases.

#7. New York

State minimum wage: $10.40

Unlike many states that raised their minimum wage rates with the new year, the state of New York decided to raise its rates on Dec. 31, bringing the figure up to $10.40 an hour. The rates are higher in some key areas: Long Island and Westchester boast a $11 an hour rate, while New York City guarantees a $12 an hour rate for jobs with businesses with 10 or fewer employees and $13 an hour for workers bigger businesses. Rates are scheduled to go up annually until all areas reach a $15 an hour rate.

#6. Vermont

State minimum wage: $10.50

Vermont’s minimum wage went up 50 cents with the new year to reach $10.50 an hour. Starting in 2019, the state’s minimum wage is set to increase by either 5 percent or the percentage increase of the consumer price index.

#5. Arizona

State minimum wage: $10.50

Just like Vermont, Arizona raised its minimum wage from $10 to $10.50 on Jan. 1. The state won’t stop there, though; the state minimum wage is set to hit $12 by 2020.

#4. California

State minimum wage: $11.00

On Jan. 1, California raised its minimum wage by fifty cents to $11 an hour for businesses with 26 or more employees and $10.50 an hour for smaller businesses. That increase is part of California’s plan to raise its minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2023. At least 20 California cities already have minimum wage rates higher than $11 an hour, with Emeryville boasting the highest rate of $15.20 an hour.

#3. Massachusetts

State minimum wage: $11.00

Since 2017, Massachusetts’ minimum wage has been $11 an hour. An effort to bump that rate up to $15 an hour has support in the state legislature but is still pending.

#2. Washington

State minimum wage: $11.50

Washington workers saw their minimum wage rates go up by fifty cents to reach $11.50 on Jan. 1. On the same day, Seattle’s minimum wage went up to $15 per hour for employers that offer medical benefits; those that don’t now pay $15.45. The rate is lower for smaller Seattle companies: $11.50 an hour with medical benefits, or $14 an hour without.

#1. Washington, D.C.

District minimum wage: $12.50

In July 2017, Washington, D.C., raised its minimum wage by two dollars, from $10.50 to $12.50, making it higher than that of any state. That increase was the first in a series of four that will raise the district’s minimum wage to $15 by 2020, after which the rate will be tied to inflation.

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