The Highest Minimum Wages in 2019

Each year hundreds of thousands of hourly paid workers earn the minimum wage in the U.S. Originally meant to provide an income sufficient to support an individual and, in some cases, a family, the minimum wage has failed to keep pace with the cost of living. Currently, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, but workers who fall under both state and federal laws must be paid the higher of the two rates. Some workers receive a minimum wage mandated by the city where they live that is higher than the state or federal rate. Minimum wage rates clearly vary widely across the United States.

Types of Minimum Wage

In most jurisdictions, employees who get tips, including restaurant servers, have a lower minimum wage. This is called the “tipped wage.” In Washington, D.C., the tipped wage is $3.89, while the standard minimum wage is $13.25. In Washington State, the minimum wage and the tipped wage are both $11.50.
Some researchers also like to discuss the “effective” minimum wage. This is a wage rate high enough to keep people out of poverty, but still affordable for employers so there is no widespread job loss.
The Washington Post reported in November that Arkansas was on track to have the highest effective minimum wage in the country, resulting in minimum wage workers earning almost 70 percent as much as the state’s median worker.
In addition to state rates, some cities and counties have created a higher minimum wage to apply within their jurisdictions. Workers in these areas are entitled to the bigger hourly wage, even if it is higher than the state minimum. For instance, some workers in New York City will be earning a $15 per hour minimum wage in 2019.

Top Minimum Wage Rates in the U.S.

Leaving aside the local rates for the moment, here are the highest minimum wage rates by state for 2019.
  • Washington, D.C.: $13.25
  • California $12.00
  • Massachusetts: $12.00
  • Washington: $12.00
  • Oregon $11.25 – 7/1/2019
  • New York: $11.10
  • California: $11.00
  • Arizona: $11.00
  • Maine $11.00
  • Vermont $10.78
  • Rhode Island $10.50
  • Connecticut: $10.10
  • Hawaii: $10.10
These are the current minimum wage rates for non-tipped workers. Eight states mandate that employers pay tipped workers the same minimum wage as everyone else: Washington, Montana, Minnesota, Oregon, Nevada, California, Alaska and Hawaii. In all other states, tipped workers receive a “sub-minimum” wage.

Lowest Minimum Wage Rates in the U.S.

These states have no minimum wage at all: Tennessee, South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Workers in these states nonetheless receive some protection. They are entitled to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 or $2.13 for tipped workers. Some states, like Virginia, tie their minimum wage to the federal rate as a matter of course.
In some states, however, the minimum wage rate is lower than the federal rate. Workers who are not subject to the federal rate may be paid this lower minimum. In Georgia, for example, the state minimum wage is $5.15.
Twenty states raised their minimum wage rates for 2019, partly in response to the $15 movement that is gaining strength across the nation. Some policy experts feel that rate is necessary to provide a living wage, the original purpose of creating a minimum wage.

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