New Year Brings a Tiny Wage Increase for Low-Paid Workers

Lawmakers must do more to boost workers and the state’s economy.

Published on Dec 27, 2016 in Economic Justice

Inflation adjustment will help, but lawmakers must do more to boost workers and the state’s economy

On January 1, 2017, New Jersey’s minimum wage will rise by 0.7 percent to $8.44 per hour, giving approximately 99,000 Garden State workers a very slight pay increase in the new year, according to a new report we released today.

While the 6-cent wage increase is surely better than nothing for New Jersey’s very low-paid workers, the state’s minimum wage will continue to fall far short of what it takes for these New Jerseyans to meet their basic needs. In fact, the new minimum wage will only cover between 41 and 57 percent of the $14.80-$20.34 per hour that it actually takes for full-time single adult workers across the state to afford a basic family budget.

The bottom line: there is clearly more work to be done to improve the economic security of the Garden State’s low-paid workers. Unfortunately, efforts to boost the incomes of these lowest-paid workers, and the state’s economy, hit a dead end this year when Gov. Christie vetoed legislation that would have gradually raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour over the course of five years. With the stroke of his red pen, the governor prevented a sensible and modest raise for about 1 in 4 Garden State workers, or 975,000 men and women.

Other key findings of the report:

  • The January 1 wage increase will boost the incomes of about 2.5 percent of the state’s workforce
  • The 99,000 affected workers will see an average annual wage increase of $402 in 2017
  • The total amount of new wages paid to these 99,000 workers will be about $39.7 million in 2017
  • Of the affected workers, an overwhelming majority – 73 percent – are at least 20 years old, while about one in three – 32 percent – are at least 40 years old
  • Nearly half of the affected workers – 47 percent – are working full-time, and an additional 28 percent are working mid-time (between 20 and 35 hours per week)
  • About one in four affected workers – 24 percent – have children, and 48,000 New Jersey kids have at least one parent who will see a pay boost in 2017