Prospects for raising the federal minimum wage, which has stood at $7.25 an hour since 2009, appear to have stalled out yet again, despite broad public support for the idea. In truth, though, for the past several years most of the real action on minimum wages has been in states, counties and cities, not on Capitol Hill. Just this past November, for example, Florida voters approved Amendment 2, which will gradually raise the state’s minimum until it reaches $15 in 2026.
As a practical matter, the $7.25 federal minimum wage is actually used in just 21 states, which collectively account for about 40% of all U.S. wage and salary workers – roughly 56.5 million people – according to our analysis of state minimum-wage laws and federal employment data. In the 29 other states and the District of Columbia, minimum wages are higher – ranging from $8.65 in Florida to $15 in D.C.
In eight of the states with higher-than-federal minimum wages, some cities and counties have adopted local ordinances that provide for even higher rates than their state’s minimum, accelerate schedules for future increases, or both. (None of the states where the $7.25 federal minimum prevails have higher local minimums.) Our research found at least 46 such cities and counties – most of them (36) in the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay areas of California. The highest local minimum wage in the country, $16.84, is in Emeryville, a suburb of San Francisco.