New year brings new wages in Colorado

DENVER – Colorado’s full minimum wage and tipped minimum wage will increase Jan. 1. An across-the-board increase of 14 cents will bring the wages to $7.78 for full minimum wage and $4.76 for tipped employees.

The increases are estimated to benefit 66,000 low-wage workers and bring $11 million to the state’s gross domestic product while providing $300 per year in wages for the average directly affected worker.

Colorado joins nine other states – Arizona, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington – in raising state minimum wage rates on New Year’s Day, which will boost wages for nearly 1 million workers nationwide.

“An increase in pay from $4.62 to $4.76 will be very beneficial for me,´ said Jessica Smith, a tipped worker from Denver and a member of 9to5 Colorado. “I would not have to choose between everyday life necessities. It may not sound like a lot, but with $25 more per month I would not have to turn off my heat to ensure I will be able to afford enough groceries for the month.”

“This (wage increase) is a step in the right direction for Colorado workers and their families and is exactly the type of steps we need in making a strong economic recovery,´ said Mike Cerbo, executive-director of the Colorado AFL-CIO.

Colorado’s minimum-wage increase is the result of a state constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2006 that provides for annual rate adjustments to keep pace with the rising cost of living.

Around 57,000 Colorado workers will be directly impacted because the new wage rate will exceed their current hourly pay. Another 9,000 will see raises as pay scales are adjusted upward to reflect the new minimum wage, according to an analysis of government data by the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute. Of these workers 68 percent are 20 years old or older, 74 percent work 20 or more hours per week and 42 percent have at least some college education.

As of Jan. 1, 19 states plus the District of Columbia will have minimum-wage rates above the federal level of $7.25 per hour. This is a little more than $15,000 per year for a full-time minimum wage earner. Colorado numbers among the 10 states that increase their minimum wage rates annually to ensure that real wages for the lowest-paid workers do not fall even further behind.

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