If they haven't been forced to already due to other pressures, many employers across New Jersey must increase their minimum hourly pay for workers in the new year.

New Jersey's statewide minimum wage, which impacts most employees in the state, is set to increase by $1, to a total of $13 per hour, on Jan. 1. The mandate is part of legislation signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in February 2019, which gradually raises the minimum hourly wage to $15 by 2024.

"I'm proud the Garden State has remained on course to a $15 minimum wage despite the challenges of the pandemic," said Robert Asaro-Angelo, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development. "We're working to get our residents into not just jobs, but good jobs with sustainable wages and the generous benefits that come with working in our state."

(Governor's Office photo) Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo
(Governor's Office photo) Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo
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'I'm proud the Garden State has remained on course to a $15 minimum wage despite the challenges of the pandemic.'

When Murphy took office in 2018, New Jersey's minimum wage was $8.60 per hour.

“Because wages have not kept up with increases in productivity or costs of living, raising the minimum wage is the most effective tool we have to increase the take-home pay for most low-wage workers," Nicole Rodriguez, research director for New Jersey Policy Perspective, told New Jersey 101.5.

"These raises help workers better afford basic needs, like putting food on the table or keeping the heat on during the winter. A higher minimum wage also ensures that more families can cope with increased financial pressures from the pandemic."

Rodriguez added that when workers are paid more, they often spend that money locally, so minimum wage increases also benefit local businesses and the broader economy.

According to business advocates, many owners have been forced to hike wages in 2021 due to a labor shortage, in order to attract and retain workers.

"The issue is, those who could afford to pay have always paid what they could," said Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association.

In NJBIA's most recent business outlook survey, a third of employers said that they increased pay for employees by at least 5% in 2021. And among those who reported that finding adequate staff is challenging, 50% said they increased wages more than they could afford.

"The increase in the minimum wage still remains a challenge for small businesses, but there are so many more competing problems that they will strive to get through," said Eileen Kean, New Jersey director for the National Federation of Independent Business.

Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, makes comments during a press conference about the current hiring crisis in New Jersey. (Dino Flammia, Townsquare Media NJ)
Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, makes comments during a press conference about the current hiring crisis in New Jersey. (Dino Flammia, Townsquare Media NJ)
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'Those who could afford to pay have always paid what they could'

As the new year approaches, supply and shipping strains remain an issue for New Jersey businesses. Kean said all of these added costs are eventually paid for by the consumer.

Not all workers in New Jersey are seeing their minimum hourly pay bumped to $13 in the new year. Seasonal and small employers, for example, have until 2026 to reach $15 per hour, so the minimum wage for their workers will increase 80 cents to $11.90 on Jan. 1. Agricultural workers are on a timetable that gives their employers until 2027 to reach the $15/hour minimum.

Tipped workers will also see their minimum cash wage rise by $1, to $5.13 per hour.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com

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