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In 2013 New Jerseyans overwhelmingly voted to raise the state’s minimum wage to $8.25 an hour and tie the wage floor to future increases in the cost of living. The increase was a big victory for New Jersey’s low-wage workers, but the current minimum wage of $8.38 an hour – or $17,430 a year if a resident works 40 hours a week every week of the year – still doesn’t cut it in high-cost New Jersey.
• The hourly wage needed for a single adult full-time worker to afford basic needs in New Jersey is at least $13.78, or $28,662 a year – more than one and a half times higher than the current minimum wage.
• In other words, a New Jerseyan working at minimum wage needs to work at least66 hours a week just to avoid destitution and earn enough just to afford basic needs. If that working man or woman also had a spouse and two young children, the adults in the household would need to work at least 146 hours a week at minimum wage just to get by.
• In order to have a more stable household budget, a single adult New Jersey minimum wage worker would need to work at least 94 hours a week– and a family with two young children would need have adults working at least 259 hours a week, or nearly six and a half 40-hour workweeks split between two people.
• New Jersey’s low wage floor isn’t nearly enough for workers to even afford housing in this high-cost state. A Garden State resident would need to work at least 120 hours a week to a 2-bedroom apartment at fair market rent, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. In 7 of New Jersey’s counties, the number of hours required would be even higher.
• An economy reliant on low-wage work harms not only workers and their families, but all of us. Unlike the vast majority of American businesses, low-wage employers have for years happily shifted “normal” business costs like health care and full wages to the American taxpayer. The hidden cost of low-wage work in New Jersey – paid for by taxpayers through public assistance and safety net programs to individuals in working families – is estimated at $3.3 billion a year.While the lion’s share is paid by all of the nation’s taxpayers, with federal program costs coming in at $2.6 billion, state taxpayers are chipping in $726 million – a cost that is significantly underestimated, since it does not take into account the state’s share of the Earned Income Tax Credit, which boosts the take-home pay of working families who aren’t paid enough to make ends meet.
Many Workers Would Benefit from a Higher Minimum Wage
Raising New Jersey’s minimum wage to $15 an hour would directly boost the take-home pay of 1 in 3, or 36 percent, of Garden State workers.
New Jersey’s low-wage workers, on the whole, are older and more educated than ever before, due to ongoing shifts in the nature of low-wage work.
An estimated 724,000 New Jerseyans earn less than $11.05 an hour. Of these workers:
• 87 percent are adults (20 years old and older).
• 56 percent work full-time (35 hours a week or more). An additional 29 percent work between 20 and 35 hours a week, leaving a small minority – 15 percent – who are working in part-time jobs less than 20 hours a week.
• Close to half (44 percent) have attended or graduated from college.
• About 1 in 4 (23 percent) are parents, raising about 288,000 children.
 United Way of Northern New Jersey, ALICE New Jersey: Study of Financial Hardship.
 National Low Income Housing Coalition, Out of Reach 2015.
 UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, The High Public Cost of Low Wages.
 National Employment Law Project, The Growing Movement for $15.
 New Jersey Policy Perspective, Increasing the Minimum Wage to $10.10: A Win-Win for New Jersey.