Minimum wage workers in California, New York, Massachusetts, Washington, and 15 other states will see higher numbers on their paychecks at the start of 2017.
Alaska, Florida, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, and South Dakota will also raise their minimum wages on Jan. 1, due to automatic indexing, while Arizona, Maine, Colorado, and Washington will follow suit after voters approved raises in the Nov. 8 general election, reports AP. Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Michigan, and Vermont will also pay their workers higher wages.
The federal minimum wage was last raised in 2009, to $7.25. The intended 2017 raises mark a change in national pay that has more or less stagnated since the Great Recession, despite a dropping unemployment rate, notes NPR.
"Businesses kind of have the sense that [the missing workers] are out there -- they are a pool of available workers -- so that has, I think, suppressed wage growth," Michael Strain, director of economic policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, told NPR.
At the start of the new year, Massachusetts and Washington state will tie for the highest minimum wage at $11 per hour, while New York's will jump to $11 in New York City, $10 in downstate suburbs, and $9.70 in the rest of the state, notes AP. Meanwhile, California businesses with 26 or more employees will now have to pay their workers $10.50 an hour.
"This $1.50 increase, I cannot even comprehend or tell you how important this will be," said father of four Alvin Major, 51, who works in New York City's fast food industry and has been an activist to raise pay in his state, according to AP. "The price of food has gone up. Rent has gone up. Everything has gone up. ... This will make a difference for so many people."
Many of these increases are the first steps of a plan to gradually raise pay to $12 or $15 per hour in states such as Oregon, New York, and California.
"These aren't only teens trying to make some pocket money," said Tsedeye Gebreselassie, senior staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project. "Increasingly it's adults who are using this money to support their families."