New Jersey's minimum wage completed the final step in its phase-in to $15 an hour. The wage floor will increase with inflation in future years. (Photo by New Jersey Monitor)

New Jersey’s minimum wage rose to $15.13 on New Year’s Day, completing the last stepped increase that lawmakers planned when they approved the climb in early 2019.

“This is a historic moment for New Jersey and the Fight for $15 movement. Raising the minimum wage has been a huge success across the state, benefiting nearly one million workers and proving that we can increase wages while maintaining low unemployment,” said Peter Chen, senior policy analyst for New Jersey Policy Perspective.

The state’s wage floor will continue to rise in future years, though the level of those increases will be set by inflation.

Those increases are likely to be more modest than the hikes seen over the past five years, though outsized inflation could force larger increases, as it did in January 2023, when high inflation seen the preceding year pushed the minimum wage up $1.13 instead of $1.

Gov. Phil Murphy last month suggested lawmakers could take the minimum wage yet higher, perhaps to $18 or $20 per hour, noting the increase to $15 per hour did not result in economic shock and arguing inflation and a staffing crunch had already pushed most workers’ wages above the new minimum.

“I think the debate, upon reflection, given what people get paid these days is almost quaint, frankly. And I wonder whether or not we shouldn’t be taking this higher. That’s something I would be very open to,” Murphy told WNYC in December.

Some workers will see slower increases. Seasonal employees and those at businesses with fewer than six workers will see an identical increase, bringing their minimum wage to $13.73. That wage floor is set to reach $15 in 2026.

The wage floor for farmers and other agricultural workers edged up to $12.81, an 80-cent increase, and it remains to be seen whether such workers will continue to see hikes to their minimum wage.

State law requires the state’s agriculture and labor commissioners to issue a report detailing the impacts increases to the wage floor have had on the state’s agricultural industry by the end of March. That document will recommend whether farm workers’ minimum wage should continue to increase in the coming years in line with the statute that would see it broach $15 per hour in 2027.

“While this milestone is worth celebrating, this isn’t the time to rest on our laurels,” Chen said. “Tipped and agricultural workers are still paid less than the minimum wage because of exemptions in the law that must be fixed, and the cost of living is much higher today than it was when the Fight for $15 started a decade ago.”

Republished courtesy of New Jersey Monitor, which is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. New Jersey Monitor maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Terrence McDonald for questions: [email protected]. Follow New Jersey Monitor on Facebook and Twitter.