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The Wall Street Journal reports that a federally mandated minimum wage boost goes into effect next week, with July 24 the date on which the final hike in a three-step increase takes place.

According to the Journal, “The minimum wage will rise 70 cents — or about 11% — to $7.25 per hour from $6.55. (Last summer, it went up 70 cents from $5.85.)” And, the paper writes, “The hike will give about 4.5 million workers a raise and boost hourly wages by $1.6 billion a year, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C.

“The final phase of the federal minimum wage hike will impact 31 states whose minimum wage levels are below $7.25, including Florida, Pennsylvania, Nebraska and New York. Firms in these states will have to match the federal minimum. The increase has no bearing on 20 states (including Washington, D.C.), which already mandate an hourly wage of $7.25 or more.”

As the paper notes, it is impossible to know whether Congress would have approved this wage increase had it known about the recession; at the very least, it is controversial to be raising wages at a time when employers are strapped for cash, unemployment is high, and both workers and businesses are struggling to make ends meet. The concern is that new jobs won’t be created and that existing jobs could be eliminated as employers look to balance their books in a tough environment.
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