What would an extra $2.88 a day, $14.40 a week, or $748.80 a year mean to you? Thirty-six cents an hour may seem like small change, but for nearly two hundred thousand minimum wage workers, it will mean increased earnings starting January 1st.
According to the state's Department of Economic Opportunity, Florida's minimum wage is going up 36 cents an hour to $7.67 to reflect for higher cost of living expenses. The same thirty-six cent increase will apply to minimum-wage tipped employees, whose rates will go from $4.29 to $4.65 an hour.
While the current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, Floridians earn an additional six cents or $7.31 an hour. The state minimum wage was increased by six cents in June after a judge ruled that it should take into account a higher cost of living and compliance with an earlier constitutional amendment.
In 2004, Floridians voted by a 72 percent to 28 percent margin to amend the Constitution to enact a state minimum wage. Under the voter-approved amendment, the minimum wage would increase every January to keep pace with any cost of living increase the past year. In those rare instances where the cost of living decreased, the minimum wage would remain the same.
Some have worried that the increased minimum wage will hurt job creation, particularly for teenagers, part-time or first-time workers. The unemployment rate of 10.7 percent in Florida is significantly higher than the national average of 9.1 percent.
But the National Employment Law Project said the upcoming wage increase is necessary to help working families.
"With staggering unemployment and slow job creation combining to depress wages, these modest annual minimum wage increases are one of the few policies that counteract downward pressure on wages and prevent the lowest wage earners from falling even further behind,'' said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project.
Florida joins Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Ohio, Oregon and Washington, which announced similar increases for 2012 under their state minimum wage laws with similar cost of living provisions. Nevada and Missouri annually index their state minimum wage to keep up with inflation.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, three quarters of minimum wage earners nationwide are 20 years or older, and more than 60 percent are women. Impacted nationwide are approximately 647,000 workers.
For more information on the Department of Economic Opportunity, please visit http://www.floridajobs.org.
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