Apr 4, 2022 - News

How Colorado's minimum wage policies compare with other states

Percentage of workers earning less than $15/hour
Reproduced from Oxfam America via U.S. Census; Map: Axios Visuals

As employers raise wages to attract workers amid a widespread labor shortage, new data shows Colorado has one of the lowest percentages nationwide of people earning below $15 an hour.

By the numbers: 26.8% of Centennial State workers (about 860,000 people) make $15 per hour or less — well below the national average of 31.9%, according to U.S. Census Bureau data analyzed by Oxfam America.

Why it matters: Our $12.56 minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum of $7.25, but over the years neither figure has kept up with the cost of living.

  • A living hourly wage for a single adult with no children in Colorado is $17.56, per the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. If that adult has one child, the rate needed for a living wage is $34.68.

Driving the news: A new state law that took effect last week requires Colorado prison laborers who participate in certain offsite work programs be paid minimum wage, at least.

  • Bill sponsor Sen. James Coleman (D-Denver) says the law is a first step to eventually ensuring all incarcerated laborers in the state earn minimum wage or more.

Zoom in: Significant gender and race disparities exist in the minimum wage discussion, per Oxfam's study.

  • 34% of working women make less than $15 per hour in Colorado, compared with 20% of men.
  • For people of color, the number jumps to 51% for women and 30% for men.

Flashback: Colorado voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2016 to raise the minimum wage, which was $8.31 per hour at that time.

Yes, but: This gradual yearly increase leaves Colorado's pay behind nearly a dozen other states, including California, Minnesota, Massachusetts and Washington.

The big picture: A record number of cities and states are set to increase their minimum wages this year — with many exceeding $15, Axios' Oriana Gonzalez writes.

The moves come in the absence of any increases to the federal minimum wage, which has gone unchanged since 2009.


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