The minimum wage went up in 20 states on January 1st. South Dakota had the largest boost of $1.25 per hour thanks to South Dakota voters, who overwhelmingly approved the wage increase on the state’s ballot in November. Arkansas and Nebraska also saw their minimum wages increase on the 1st as a result of successful ballot initiatives, while workers in Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia got raises due to legislative action. Minimum wages in the other nine states—Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, and Washington—increased automatically because they are indexed to inflation, a policy that ensures the minimum wage keeps pace with the rising cost of living. Workers in Alaska, D.C., Delaware and Minnesota are set to get raises later in 2015.
According to analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, more than 3.1 million workers across 20 states got a raise from the increases that went into effect this week. In nearly every affected state, women are a majority of minimum wage workers. The economies of these states will also benefit: the higher minimum wages will add more than $800 million to GDP.
These increases are not the only good news minimum wage workers have had recently. The minimum wage for workers on new federal contracts also went up January 1st to $10.10 per hour, which will benefit nearly 200,000 workers. And cities are aiming high, with both Seattle and San Francisco set to hit $15.00 per hour (by 2021 and 2018, respectively).
Unfortunately, the minimum wage still falls short for millions of Americans, especially women. Today, a full-time worker earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour makes just $14,500 annually—more than $4,000 below the poverty line for a family of three. Though state and local measures to raise the minimum wage are important steps, a higher federal minimum wage and tipped minimum wage would give millions more workers a raise and help lift families out of poverty. And because women are two-thirds of minimum wage workers across the country, increasing the minimum wage and tipped minimum wage would help close the wage gap. It’s time to raise the federal minimum wage.