New Jersey Minimum Wage Increasing to $12/Hour, Faces Criticism

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New Jersey’s minimum wage will rise to $12 per hour on Friday even as businesses are struggling to stay open and critics are saying the higher cost will make a pandemic recovery even tougher.

Governor Phil Murphy, though, is standing by the $1 increase, mandated by legislation he signed in 2019, as a positive for employees whose hours may have been cut amid other hardships since March, when New Jersey reported its first Covid-19 case.

“Good news: Beginning tomorrow, New Jersey’s minimum wage will rise to $12 an hour -- a boost for our workers, their families and our economy,” Murphy, a first-term Democrat running for re-election in November, wrote in a tweet on Thursday.

New Jersey’s minimum wage will rise to $15 in 2024 from $8.85 in February 2019. Twenty-nine U.S. states have minimum pay above the $7.25 federal rate, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a Washington-based lobbying group.

Of the two dozen states that have scheduled increases in 2021, Virginia rolled back its $9.50 start date to May 1 from Jan. 1, citing economic hardship. In New Jersey, Republican lawmakers in 2019 had argued for an option to delay increases in the event of recession or other fiscal calamity.

“A higher minimum wage is great except when your salary goes to zero when the business that you’re working for goes under,” Senator Declan O’Scanlon, a Republican from Little Silver, said by telephone.

The New Jersey Business and Industry Association and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce were among those opposed to the lack of an emergency delay option. Amid the pandemic they argued that businesses were burdened by mandatory closings earlier this year, personal protective equipment costs and reduced hours and indoor occupancy caps.

Since March 21, New Jersey has received 1,894,611 initial unemployment claims, according to data released Thursday. For the week ended Dec. 26, the labor department received 20,460 claims, the highest total for the month, as some temporary holiday employment ended.

Almost one-third of New Jersey small businesses that were open in January weren’t operating as of Dec. 9, according to data compiled at TrackTheRecovery.org, a project led by Harvard University. Nationally, the figure is 29%.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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