Low-wage workers in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont,Washington and the District of Columbia, will ring in 2011 with slightly higher paychecks. That’s because those jurisdictions automatically increase wage rates at the start of the new year to adjust for inflation, something labor advocates say more states should do. Three others — Florida, Missouri and Nevada — provide for automatic increases that will take effect later in the year.
Though the increases are small — ranging from nine to 12 cents per hour — economists say they should boost sales for local businesses as workers use the money immediately to pay for food, gasoline and other essentials. Still, business advocates argue that with already high unemployment, the increases could dampen job creation.
Before the federal government raised the minimum wage three years ago — after a 12-year hiatus — a majority of states pushed wages above the federal minimum. On Jan. 1, 17 states and the District of Columbia will have minimum wages above the current federal level, which pays a full-time minimum wage worker $7.25 an hour, or just over $15,000 per year. Washington state’s $8.55 per hour is the highest in the nation. For more than 60 percent of minimum wage workers, annual pay is well below the $22,050 federal poverty line for a family of four.