Minimum Wage 2024 USA: A Complete Guide for Employers

minimum wage

In this article we'll look at the different states minimum wage rates in the United State, how they affect employers, and any relevant federal laws concerning the subject.

What is minimum wage?

The minimum wage is the lowest hourly wage that employers are legally allowed to pay their employees. It is established by law and is intended to ensure that workers earn a wage that is sufficient to meet their basic needs for food, shelter, clothing, and healthcare.

The minimum wage in the United States is currently set at $7.25 per hour.

This federal minimum wage has not been increased since 2009. In the meantime, the cost of living has risen significantly, making it more difficult for low-wage workers to make ends meet.

In response to this, many states have enacted their own minimum wage laws that are higher than the federal minimum wage.

As of 2024, there are 22 states with minimum wages that are higher than the federal minimum wage.

The state with the highest minimum wage is Washington, with a minimum wage of $16.28 per hour.

Factors that influence the minimum wage rate

Several factors influence the minimum wage rate. These factors have been widely studied and debated. They include:

  • The cost of living: Higher prices for necessities such as housing, food, and transportation may require a tipped minimum wage to ensure that workers can afford to meet their basic needs. Conversely, lower costs of living may allow for a lower minimum wage. 

  • Productivity: As workers become more productive, they can produce more output simultaneously. This higher level of productivity can lead to higher wages, as employers are willing to pay their employees more for increased efficiency and production. Jobs requiring higher education, training, or skill levels may be more productive and generate more revenue for the employer, and as a result, may command higher wages.

  • Health of the economy: Various factors, including economic growth, inflation, and employment levels, can influence the economy's health. In a strong economy, employers may have more resources available to pay their workers and, as a result, may be able to offer tipped minimum wage rates. Conversely, in a weaker economy, employers may face financial constraints that limit their ability to pay higher wages.

  • Competitive market: Employers may need higher wages in a highly competitive market to attract and retain skilled workers. On the other hand, in a less competitive market, employers may be able to pay lower wages as there are fewer alternatives available for workers.

  • The industry: Industries with high levels of capital investment, such as manufacturing and technology, may be able to pay higher wages than industries with low capital investments, such as retail and hospitality. If an enterprise is particularly profitable, employers may be able to offer higher salaries as they have more resources available.

  • Location: Minimum wage can vary by state or local jurisdiction, with some areas having higher wage rates due to a higher cost of living or other local factors. Also, location can influence wages through the regional economy. In regions with robust economic activity, employers may need to pay higher salaries to attract and retain workers.

  • Government policies: Governments can set minimum wage rates through legislation, regulation, and other policies and provide incentives or additional support to encourage employers to pay higher wages.

  • Collective bargaining: This is the process by which unions and other worker organizations negotiate with employers on behalf of their members for higher wages and other employment benefits. Collective bargaining can influence minimum wage, particularly in industries or occupations where unions are prevalent.

  • Inflation: As the value of money decreases due to inflation, the purchasing power of wages may decline, requiring a tipped minimum wage to maintain a worker's standard of living.

The minimum wage 2024 per state

The table below shows the minimum wage in each state and Washington, D.C., for 2024, along with the percentage by which it exceeds the federal minimum wage.

State Minimum Wage (2024) Percentage Above Federal Minimum Wage
Washington $16.28 122%
Massachusetts $13.50 86%
California $16.00 116%
Connecticut $15.69 112%
Nevada $12.50 81%
Rhode Island $13.00 84%
Maine $14.15 99%
New York $15.00 106%
Minnesota $10.33 47%
Oregon $13.00 84%
Alaska $10.85 52%
New Jersey $13.50 86%
Colorado $14.42 98%
Hawaii $11.00 56%
Arizona $14.35 97%
Vermont $12.55 81%
Washington, D.C. $17.00 128%
Montana $9.90 45%
Illinois $12.00 74%
Delaware $13.25 87%
Guam $10.50 50%
Maryland $15.00 106%
Puerto Rico $7.25 0%
South Dakota $9.46 41%
Wyoming $9.30 40%

As you can see, the minimum wage varies significantly from state to state. This can create challenges for businesses that operate in multiple states, as they have to comply with different minimum wage laws. It can also make it difficult for workers to move from one state to another, as their wages could change significantly.

The debate over minimum wage continues, with proponents arguing that it is necessary to ensure that workers earn a living wage and opponents arguing that it will lead to job losses. The impact of minimum wage increases is complex and depends on a variety of factors, including the specific wage increase, the economy, and the business sector.

Despite the ongoing debate, there is a growing consensus that the minimum wage should be increased. This is reflected in the fact that many states and localities have raised their minimum wages in recent years. It is likely that this trend will continue in the years to come.

Federal minimum wage: A stagnant standard

The federal minimum wage in the United States has remained stagnant at $7.25 per hour since 2009, the longest period without an increase since it was first implemented in 1938. This lack of adjustment has significantly eroded the purchasing power of the minimum wage, making it increasingly difficult for low-wage workers to afford basic necessities and participate fully in the economy.

Proponents of increasing the federal minimum wage argue that it is crucial to ensure that workers earn a wage that is commensurate with their labor and that reflects the rising cost of living. A higher minimum wage would help millions of workers lift themselves out of poverty, improve their financial stability, and increase their overall well-being.

Furthermore, raising the federal minimum wage would have a positive ripple effect on the economy, as it would stimulate consumer spending. Low-wage workers would have more disposable income, which they would spend on goods and services, boosting businesses and creating additional jobs.

A study by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025 would lift 1.3 million people out of poverty, while generating an additional 1.1 million jobs. The study also concluded that the overall economic impact would be positive, with a 0.6% increase in gross domestic product (GDP).

Tipped minimum wage: A dual standard

In the United States, there exists a separate minimum wage for tipped employees, those who receive a portion of their earnings in the form of tips from customers. The tipped minimum wage is typically lower than the regular minimum wage, with employers allowed to pay tipped employees less than the regular minimum wage as long as the combined amount of their hourly wage and tips equals or exceeds the regular minimum wage.

This dual minimum wage system has been the subject of much debate, with critics arguing that it perpetuates income inequality and leaves tipped workers vulnerable to wage theft. They maintain that tipped workers should receive the full regular minimum wage, regardless of their tips, to ensure they earn a living wage without relying on the goodwill of customers.

Proponents of the tipped minimum wage argue that it allows businesses to operate more efficiently, as they can pay tipped employees less initially and rely on tips to supplement their income. They also contend that the tipping system provides an incentive for tipped workers to provide better service to customers.

However, studies have shown that tipped workers often do not receive enough tips to reach the regular minimum wage, leaving them to rely on their employers to make up the difference. This can lead to wage theft, as employers may not accurately track or compensate tipped employees for their tips.

What are efficiency wages?

Efficiency wages are the wages that employers pay to their employees to motivate them to work harder and be more productive. This theory was first proposed by Alfred Marshall in his 1920 book Principles of Economics.

Main reasons for paying efficiency wages

There are several reasons why employers might pay efficiency wages:

  • Reduced Employee Turnover: By compensating their employees fairly and providing them with good working conditions, employers can incentivize loyalty and reduce turnover, which can save them money on recruitment and training costs.

  • Improved Employee Morale: Higher wages can boost employee morale, leading to increased job satisfaction, engagement, and overall well-being. This positive atmosphere can enhance productivity and reduce absenteeism.

  • Attracted and Retained Top Talent: Offering competitive wages and benefits can attract and retain top talent, ensuring that the company has a strong workforce with the skills and experience needed to succeed.

  • Reduced Absenteeism and Tardiness: When employees feel valued and compensated fairly, they are less likely to be absent from work or tardy, which can improve overall productivity and reduce disruptions.

  • Increased Employee Effort: Higher wages can motivate employees to work harder and provide better service to customers, which can enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.

  • Reduced Unskilled Labor: By paying efficiency wages, employers can attract more skilled workers, reducing the need to rely on unskilled labor, which may be less productive and require more supervision.

Efficiency wages vs minimum wages

Efficiency wages are not the same as minimum wages. Minimum wages are the legal minimum hourly wage that employers must pay to their workers. Efficiency wages, on the other hand, are higher than the minimum wage and are designed to motivate workers to perform at their best.

In some cases, employers may pay efficiency wages that are even higher than the market-clearing wage, meaning that the wage is higher than what workers would be willing to accept in the absence of other employment options. This is done in an effort to attract and retain the most qualified and productive workers.

Theoretical implications of efficiency wages

Theoretical models of efficiency wages suggest that they can lead to positive outcomes for both employers and employees. For employers, efficiency wages can lead to increased productivity, reduced employee turnover, and improved customer service. For employees, higher wages can lead to higher job satisfaction, lower stress levels, and better overall well-being.

Real-world evidence of efficiency wages

There is some empirical evidence to support the theory of efficiency wages. For example, a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that companies that paid their employees more than the market-clearing wage tended to have lower turnover rates and higher productivity.

However, it is important to note that there is also evidence that efficiency wages may not always be effective. For example, a study by the University of California, Berkeley found that efficiency wages may not be as effective in industries with high turnover or where workers are easily replaceable.

The overall impact of efficiency wages on businesses and workers is a complex issue that has been the subject of much debate among economists. More research is needed to fully understand the implications of efficiency wages in different industries and under different economic conditions.

What is a living wage ordinance?

A living wage ordinance is a local law that mandates that employers pay their employees a wage that is high enough to cover the basic necessities of life, such as food, housing, transportation, healthcare, and childcare. Living wage ordinances typically apply to all businesses within a jurisdiction, or they may be targeted to specific industries or types of businesses.

Purpose of living wage ordinances

The primary purpose of living wage ordinances is to ensure that low-wage workers can earn enough to support themselves and their families. This can help to alleviate poverty, reduce reliance on government assistance, and improve the overall well-being of workers and their families.

Living wage ordinances can also have positive economic benefits for a community. By ensuring that workers are paid a living wage, businesses can attract and retain more qualified employees, which can lead to increased productivity and economic growth.

Key features of living wage ordinances

Living wage ordinances vary in their specific provisions, but they typically include the following elements:

  • A definition of a living wage: The ordinance defines the minimum hourly wage that employers must pay their workers. This definition typically takes into account the cost of living in the area and the needs of low-wage workers.

  • A phase-in period: The ordinance may provide a phase-in period for employers to adjust their pay scales to comply with the new minimum wage requirement. This helps to mitigate the financial impact on businesses and allows them to plan for the change.

  • Enforcement mechanisms: The ordinance should include clear enforcement mechanisms to ensure that employers are complying with the law. This may include regular audits, fines for noncompliance, and penalties for repeat offenders.

Implementation of living wage ordinances

The implementation of living wage ordinances can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the specific provisions of the ordinance. However, the following steps are typically involved:

  • Adoption of the ordinance: The ordinance must be passed by the local legislative body, such as the city council or the county board of supervisors.

  • Public outreach and education: The ordinance should be publicly announced and explained to employers, workers, and the community.

  • Administration and enforcement: A designated agency or department is responsible for administering the ordinance and enforcing compliance.

  • Monitoring and evaluation: The effectiveness of the ordinance should be monitored and evaluated to assess its impact on workers, businesses, and the community as a whole.

Disputes and challenges

The implementation of living wage ordinances can sometimes lead to disputes between employers, workers, and local governments. In some cases, employers may challenge the constitutionality of the ordinance or argue that it is an undue burden on their businesses.

Workers may also raise concerns about the effectiveness of living wage ordinances, arguing that they may not be sufficient to lift all workers out of poverty or that they may lead to job losses or higher prices for consumers.

Despite these challenges, living wage ordinances have been gaining traction in recent years, with over 300 cities and counties across the United States having adopted such ordinances. These ordinances are helping to improve the lives of low-wage workers and contribute to a more equitable and just society.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • The minimum wage in California is $16.00 per hour. This rate is scheduled to increase to $16.30 per hour on September 1, 2024, and to $16.55 per hour on September 1, 2025.
  • The minimum wage in Washington state is $16.28 per hour. This rate is scheduled to increase to $16.50 per hour on September 1, 2024, and to $16.72 per hour on September 1, 2025.
  • The minimum wage in Colorado is $14.42 per hour. This rate is scheduled to increase to $14.98 per hour on January 1, 2025, and to $15.40 per hour on January 1, 2026.
  • The minimum wage in Missouri is $7.70 per hour. This rate is scheduled to increase to $8.25 per hour on September 1, 2024.
  • The minimum wage in New York state is $13.50 per hour. This rate is scheduled to increase to $14.00 per hour on July 1, 2024, and to $15.00 per hour on December 31, 2024.
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Topic: Wages
Carin Vreede

Written by:

Carin Vreede

With years of experience in the HR field, Carin has a lot of experience with HR processes. As a content marketer, she translates this knowledge into engaging and informative content that helps companies optimize their HR processes and motivate and develop their employees.


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