In just days, New Jersey's minimum wage will increase by 16 cents — the largest amount in years.

The increase brings the rate to $8.60 an hour for 2017 — or $344 a week for someone who works 40 hours. That same worker would make $333 more in 2018 than $2017 if he or she worked 40 hours, without exception, every week of the year.

The 16-cent increase is the largest since voters tied the wage to inflation in 2013 while passing a constitutional amendment that raised the minimum wage by $1 to $8.25.

“That is still not nearly enough for people to be able to securely afford the needs they have,”  Brandon McKoy of New Jersey Policy Perspective told New Jersey 101.5 earlier this month. “We need to take further action to make sure the minimum wage is not paying a poverty-level wage.”

The federal minimum wage is just $7.25, but most states have regulations increasing it for their businesses' employees. A few, like Alabama and Mississippi have no such rules. The highest is in Washington, D.C. — currently at $12.40, and $15 in 2020 after a series of planned increases.

Tom Bracken, president of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said the increase wasn't going to have a significant negative impact on business, but "it’s not going to move the needle for the people getting it."

McKoy said a full-time, minimum-wage worker will earn around $18,000 next year.

“In New Jersey, that’s not even close to what you need in order to be able to afford even the most basic of needs, not even have savings or be able to go to the movies every once in a while,” McKoy said.

But larger increases could be ahead, under Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and a Democrat-majority legislature. Murphy and legislative leaders support a $15 minimum wage.

Bracken said the Chamber also believes in a higher wage — but one phased in over time, with exceptions for seasonal industries or others that have good reasons for exemptions.

“It still is probably going to result in people working less hours, maybe some people losing their jobs, maybe increase in automation,” he said. “All those things will still come into play. But at least the businesses will know with some certainty what the increase is and they can deal with that.”

— With prior reporting by Michael Symons

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