New Year: New Minimum Wage

New Jersey workers experienced a $0.06 minimum wage increase on Jan. 1, 2017. NJ is one of 19 states that experienced a minimum wage increase that raised the minimum wage in the state from $8.38 to $8.44.

NJ is implementing the increase state-wide, yet some states are taking a more regional approach. For example, New York has varied the minimum wage based on location and circumstance. The wage rose to $11 in New York City, to $10.50 for small businesses in the city, $10 in its downstate suburbs and $9.70 in certain other locations. In Connecticut, the minimum hourly wage will climb to $0.50 cents, from $9.60 to $10.10.

According to Joshua Manning, senior business major, these increases have been the result of steadfast effort over previous years. Many supporters of the increase believe that the minimum wage is unlivable, and an increase is imperative for people to maintain a quality of life.

Aimee Parks, Assistant Director of Human Resources for Student Employment, said, “Even though it is only $0.06 at the moment, the increase will certainly make people happy. While students have not been necessarily clamoring for jobs, the office has remained steady. I am sure people will be more interested in attaining a job if these rates continue to increase.”

The ultimate goal of many fast-food workers and organized laborers is to increase the wage to $15, which is commonly seen as a fair, livable wage, added Manning.

“I am not one of those people that thinks the minimum wage should be increased to $15. Such a drastic increase will never work, as it would simply shock the economy,” said Manning. “Instead, the minimum wage should be increased incrementally to a certain point, and then tied to inflation. When President Franklin Roosevelt introduced minimum wage in 1933, I am shocked that tying it to inflation was not the first thing he thought of.

“I currently make a $1.50 over minimum wage, and while I am fortunate enough that some of my expenses are still covered by my parents, they do not cover my day to day living with regard to expenses such as food, gas, and bills,” said Emma Stowell, a junior chemistry student.

According to an article published by the USA Today on Sept. 13, 2014, the cost of living in New Jersey is substantially higher compared to other states. You would need $95,000 salary to feel completely comfortable with regard to living expenses. The median value of Jersey homes is approximately $278,600, higher than two-thirds of the United States. Homes in the northern part of the state are even more expensive, as the median list price is just under $300K, or $174 per square foot.

Corey Wrenn, PhD., a professor of MU’s Sociology Department, noted that six cents are not much of an increase for people to get excited about.

“I remember I used to work minimum wage for a little over five dollars, and that was unlivable,” said Wrenn. “Even though its increasing, it still isn’t enough to live off of. It definitely needs to increase more in the future.”