The States That Pay the Highest Minimum Wage

Low-wage workers earn the most in these 15 states.

Waitress taking order in a fast food restaurant Paul Vasarhelyi / Shutterstock

What did you do in the summer of 2009? America's national minimum wage did something it hasn't done again: It went up, to $7.25 an hour. The 10 years without an increase is the longest since the federal minimum wage was introduced after the Great Depression.

But many low-paid workers have gotten their raise anyway, courtesy of states and cities. In Washington, D.C., for example, the new minimum wage as of July 1 is $14 an hour, nearly double the federal minimum.

Twenty-nine states have adopted a higher minimum wage than Uncle Sam's. Take a look at the 15 that are on top, going in ascending order to the states with the very highest minimum pay rates.

15. Alaska

Anchorage Alaska skyline in winter at dusk with the Chugach mountains behind.
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Alaska's minimum wage is adjusted every year.

Minimum wage: $9.89 an hour

The minimum wage in America's 49th state is now increased automatically every New Year's Day to keep up with inflation, under a ballot measure that voters approved in 2014.

Like all other Alaskans, the lowest-paid workers also receive money every fall from the state's oil wealth fund. In 2018, every adult and child received a check for $1,600 to spend, save or invest.

Alaska also has a separate minimum wage for school bus drivers: They're required to receive at least double the usual minimum.

14. New Jersey

The Steel Pier at Atlantic City, New Jersey.
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New Jersey is moving toward a $15 minimum.

Minimum wage: $10 an hour

In New Jersey, minimum wage increases are becoming as reliable as the presence of traffic jams on the New Jersey Turnpike.

A bill that the state's governor signed into law early in 2019 included a hike from $8.85 to $10 an hour on July 1, then annual $1 increases every January through 2024.

That's when the Garden State's minimum will hit $15 for most workers. The bill's opponents in the New Jersey Legislature say small businesses will be hurt, seniors will be squeezed, and teenagers will have a harder time finding their first part-time jobs.