Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia will raise their minimum wage this year, most effective as of Jan. 1, but the highest minimum wage in the nation will still be claimed by Seattle, according to a recent analysis by payroll experts Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory U.S.
The report says the highest minimum wage rates in the nation are found at the municipal level, with Seattle leading the pack at $16 per hour for large employers and $15 for small companies. On a statewide basis, Washington also commands the highest minimum-wage rate, at $13.50 per hour.
The the lowest rate can be found in Georgia and Wyoming ― at $5.15 per hour, though most employees in those states still command the higher federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 per hour, the Wolters Kluwer report notes.
By contrast, California raised its minimum wage rate by $1 effective Jan. 1, to $12 per hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees and to $13 per hour for employers with 26 employees or more.
“The increases [in the minimum wage] indicate a move toward ensuring a living wage for people,” says attorney Barbara O'Dell, an employment law analyst for Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory U.S. “Some of the new rates are the result of previously approved incremental increases to reach a specific amount that is considered to be a living wage, such as California, Colorado, Maine, Washington, whereas other states’ increases reflect an annual cost-of-living adjustment, such as Alaska, Florida, Minnesota and Montana.”
States such as New York and Oregon have taken an approach to raising the minimum wage that varies by region within the state. In New York, for example, the rate in New York City is set at $15 per hour while it is $11.80 per hour in most of the rest of the state, with a slated bump up to $12.50 per hour by year’s end. In Oregon, the highest rate is in metro Portland, at $12.50 an hour and jumping to $13.25 per hour as of July 1; while the lowest rate is in rural areas of the state, at $11.00 per hour and jumping to $11.50 effective July 1.
“Those states following the step-up approach tend to have higher minimum wage rates than those taking a cost-of-living adjustment approach,” the Wolters Kluwer analysis states. “The trend towards regional minimum wages, such as those in New York and Oregon, also reflect lawmakers’ recognition that costs of living are higher in large metro areas than they are in other parts of the state.”