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Millions of workers will see higher wages starting January 1

A new analysis suggests higher wages may come to 20 states as a result of changing policies

Photo (c) Sergey Nazarov - Getty Images
Over five million Americans will start receiving higher pay on the first day of the New Year, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

The EPI, which has tracked minimum wage data for the past eight years, analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s monthly Current Population Survey and projected that minimum wage increases will come as a result of changing policies across the U.S.

Policy changes include a five-cent inflation adjustment in Alaska and a $2.00 per hour increase in New York City, the analysis said.

Early effects of ballot measures passed in Missouri and Arkansas are expected to raise the minimum wage from $7.85 an hour to $12 an hour and $8.50 an hour to $11 an hour, respectively, by 2021. California, Massachusetts, Arizona, Colorado, Washington, and Maine will also see minimum wage increases as a result of past ballot measures approved by voters in those states.

Raising the minimum wage

The EPI said the forthcoming pay bumps will collectively increase wages by about $5.4 billion in 2019. The average worker will earn an extra $90 to $1,300 each year, depending on the size of the wage increase in their state.

"It's been a long time since we've raised the federal minimum wage, and if Congress isn't going to do it, state lawmakers are feeling compelled to do it, and even local lawmakers," said David Cooper, senior economic analyst at EPI, a left-leaning think tank. “Raising the minimum wage is one of the most straightforward ways to lift pay for the lowest-paid workers in the economy.”

Advocates say raising the minimum wage can have a range of positive effects, including decreasing the rates of re-offending for ex-prisoners, improving worker mental health, and reducing employee turnover rate.

The federal minimum wage has been set at $7.25 since July 2009, and there are 21 states that still use that federal minimum wage.

“With a new Congress taking office in January, perhaps there is hope that the millions of workers earning low wages in those states will finally get a boost to their paychecks,” Cooper said.

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