Some New Jersey employers increase wages to combat labor shortage

New Jersey raised the minimum wage to $13 per hour on Jan. 1 as part of an effort to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2024.
But some employers have beaten the state to the punch, rising wages on their own because of the labor shortage.
“This is life-changing, every time we have a minimum wage increase,” says Nicole Rodriguez, with New Jersey Policy Perspective. "The increase this year is for a full-time minimum wage worker is about a $2,000 increase. Which is significant."
Rodriguez is the research director for the progressive think tank. She says the lowest paid workers haven't seen enough growth in their wages for 30 years. Gov. Phil Murphy and Democrats in the Legislature stepped in in 2019.
"For low income people who are counting every single penny they have, who are often working multiple jobs at the expense of seeing their families and other important life events we have and dealing with the pandemic, a lot of them are frontline workers. So getting sick and not being able to work is a huge deal,” Rodriguez says.
But in some cases, desperate employers have already voluntarily increased wages above $13 an hour. This summer, Sahara Sam's in West Berlin announced that all positions would be paid $15 an hour, even though seasonal employers have until 2026 to hit that pay rate.
"When workers receive these increases, it does go back into the local economies. So it actually puts more money into the pockets of workers and families who need it most,” Rodriguez says.
Wages for tipped workers at places like diners and restaurants was increased to $5.13 an hour, up $1 from last year.
“Not only is it good for the local economy, it is also good for economic recovery,” Rodriguez says, adding that it also helps soften the blow for employers.
Long-term care facility direct care staff saw their minimum wage rise by $1, up to $16 per hour.