The federal government sets a ground floor for worker pay in the U.S., but many states choose to go higher than the federal minimum wage, which has remained at $7.25 an hour since July 2009. In 23 states, plus the District of Columbia, minimum-wage raises are giving the lowest-paid workers even more money in 2015. Bankrate has analyzed the increases to find the states where the minimum wage is rising the fastest.
A ballot measure approved by South Dakota voters gave the state’s minimum-wage workers a $1.25-an-hour raise at the start of 2015. In future years, they’ll get automatic annual increases tied to inflation.
A law signed by Maryland’s governor is raising the state’s minimum wage in two steps in 2015: It went up from $7.25 an hour to $8 on New Year’s Day and is scheduled to increase to $8.25 on July 1. Additional July 1 raises in the next three years will lift Maryland’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2018.
Alaska voters said yes to a $1 increase in the state’s minimum wage that will happen on Feb. 24. A second $1 hike takes effect on Jan. 1, 2016, followed by annual increases tied to inflation that will keep the state rate at least $1 higher than the federal minimum wage.
The year began with the first of three $1 bump-ups that will push Massachusetts’ minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2017. The series of pay hikes for the state’s working poor was set in motion by a law signed by the governor in 2014.
Minnesota started raising its minimum wage in 2014 for the first time in almost 10 years; the next increase will occur Aug. 1. That $1 raise, to $9 an hour, will be paid only to workers at large companies. At smaller employers, the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour applies.
Rhode Island hiked its minimum wage by $1 at the start of the year, under a law passed in 2014. The legislation’s sponsors had wanted to include future increases, including another $1 raise in 2016, but they had to drop those provisions as part of a compromise.
The nation’s capital already has the highest minimum wage of any U.S. state or territory, and the lead will widen on July 1 when a $1 increase kicks in. Another dollar-an-hour increase in the district’s minimum wage is scheduled to take effect July 1, 2016, followed by annual raises that will track inflation.
For the first time, Nebraska has a minimum wage that’s higher than the federal minimum, under a measure that voters approved and that took effect at the beginning of 2015. The state’s lowest-paid workers are scheduled to receive another $1 raise, to $9 an hour, when 2016 arrives.
West Virginia greeted 2015 with a 75-cent increase in its minimum wage, thanks to a law signed by the governor in 2014. It will raise the state’s pay floor by another 75 cents, to $8.75 an hour, for 2016.
New York ushered in 2015 by raising its minimum wage 75 cents, to $8.75 an hour, under a 2013 law. The state’s minimum-wage workers are scheduled to receive another 25-cent raise, to $9 an hour, for 2016.