Over 3 million workers in the U.S. will start the New Year with a raise. The minimum wage will increase in 21 states on Jan. 1, putting it above the federal hourly minimum wage of $7.25.
According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the increases will lift the hourly wages of 2.4 million workers by up to $1 to an average of $8 and a high of $9.15, while another 1.9 million will benefit from a higher pay scale.
It has been a pivotal year for minimum wage workers to speak out. Nationwide protests and strikes in the fast food and retail sectors have shone a spotlight on the need for regular pay increases. The EPI noted that this is the first time in history that so many states are raising their wage floors in the absence of a federal increase, and the first time since 2008——when states were raising their wage floors in anticipation of the last federal increase——that so many states will be above the federal minimum.
Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota voted in 2014 for higher minimum wages. Legislators in seven states (Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia) approved wage increases. New York legislators agreed on an increase that went into effect on Dec. 31, 2014. Eight states (Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon and Washington) are increasing their minimum wage due to annual adjustments required by state law.
Tens of thousands of workers in the District of Columbia will also get a raise in the summer when the District minimum wage rises from $9.50 to $10.50.
The EPI said wage increases has the potential to translate into more than $838 million in new economic growth as workers have more money to spend. Once Delaware and Minnesota increase their minimum wages—expected in mid-2015—the economy could grow by $1 billion.