While Colorado’s economy has grown at a brisk pace since the Great Recession and hundreds of thousands of new jobs have been created, a significant amount of jobs in the state barely pay enough to let those who work them make ends meet. Since low-wage jobs make up more than 1/4 of all jobs statewide, it’s important to understand who the workers that fill them are and how those jobs affect the broader economy. This report, which updates previous CFI research from 2015 and 2017, shines a light on these questions and offers some insight into how Colorado compares with other states and the rest of the country as a whole.
With the Labor Day holiday right around the corner, and as Colorado’s statewide minimum wage is set to rise once again in January of 2020 – along with local governments gaining the power to increase their own minimum wage levels above the statewide minimum – policymakers and the public should use these findings as a guide to better understand how the minimum wage works in Colorado.
This week marks the longest period in history the federal government has failed to increase the minimum wage, which has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009. Because Kentucky has not increased its own minimum beyond that same level — unlike 29 other states — wages at the bottom remain stagnant and far too low for Kentuckians to make ends meet.
Wrapped into his 2019 budget proposal, Governor Wolf has proposed to raise the minimum wage in July 2019 to $12/hour, with yearly 50-cent increases until it reaches $15/hour in 2025. After 2025, the minimum wage would be adjusted for inflation. Also included in this plan is to eliminate the separate tipped minimum wage of $2.83/hour—tipped workers would earn $12 in July 2019 and would follow the same scheduled changes each year.
This increase is needed to make up for the declining value of the minimum wage over time. Figure 1 shows the minimum wage relative to the median wage for full-time, full-year workers in Pennsylvania over time. In 1968, the minimum wage was 51% of the median wage in Pennsylvania; the minimum was $1.60 compared to the median of $3.15. As you can see by the dark blue line, this value has decreased steadily over time. Today, the minimum wage is only 30% of the median wage in Pennsylvania. Doing nothing and maintaining a $7.25 minimum wage will result in this falling to 26.3% by 2025. Alternatively, Governor Wolf’s plan to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour by 2025 will bring the minimum back to about half of the median wage, where it was in the late 1960s.
Raising the minimum wage to $17 by 2024 would give 269,000 Hawai‘i workers a pay increase. This means that, in 2024, about four in 10 Hawai‘i workers would earn roughly $4,356 more each year than they do today. This raise would especially help working women and parents in low- to middle-income households, helping to keep them and their families out of poverty and homelessness.
By 2024, Hawai‘i’s minimum and near-minimum wage workers would receive a total of over $1.3 billion in additional wages. Not only would such a pay increase help to improve the living standards of affected Hawai‘i workers, it but would also strengthen local businesses, as low-wage workers plow almost every additional dollar of earnings back into the local economy.
Decades of research has shown that past minimum wage increases have achieved their intended effects: raising pay for low-wage workers with little to no negative impact on employment. Moreover, studies that have looked beyond the narrow question of employment impacts have found clear, meaningful benefits from higher minimum wages to low-wage workers, their families, and their broader communities and economies.