In Economic Mobility, Featured News

On January 1, 2024, Washingtonians will see a 3.4% increase in the minimum wage, a raise from $15.74 to $16.28 for workers ages 16 and over.

Washington allows employers to pay workers aged 14 or 15 85% of the minimum wage. For this age group, the minimum wage will rise to $13.84 at the start of 2024.

In the Evergreen State, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries determines the minimum wage based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). The minimum wage for 2024 is set based on the consumer price index for August 2022 to August 2023.

Minimum wage is a standard set throughout the state; however, cities may set their own minimum wage above that of the state. Seattle, SeaTac and Tukwila have set their own regional minimum wages, reflecting the high cost of living in the area. As of 2023, no local jurisdictions in Clark, Cowlitz or Wahkiakum counties have raised their local minimum wage.

Washington’s minimum wage exceeds those of neighboring states of Oregon and Idaho. Oregon has a stepped wage system, varying for the Portland metro area, rural areas and the rest of the state. For July 1, 2023, through June 30, 2024, the standard wage in Oregon is $14.20, the wage for the Portland metro area is $15.45 and for rural areas is $13.20. To the east, Idaho’s minimum wage lags at $7.25 for non-tipped employees and $3.36 for tipped employees.

The raise in minimum wage comes in response to consumer price increases. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Living Wage Standard provides context to what wages workers need to earn to be self-sufficient in the region. For Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties, the new minimum wage surpasses the MIT living wage standards. For an adult with no children, the living wage standard is $20.94 for Clark County, $15.92 for Cowlitz County and $14.99 for Wahkiakum County.

For businesses, providing wages that are ample for workers to support themselves and their families is a piece of job quality. The Quality Jobs Initiative is a regional commitment to promote and support job quality, developed by the Columbia-Willamette Workforce Collaborative (CWWC), a partnership with Clackamas Workforce Partnership, Worksystems, Inc. and Workforce Southwest Washington.

The Quality Jobs Framework outlines steps businesses can take to internally promote job quality. These are building blocks that businesses can pick from to construct and bolster job quality.

One component of job quality that businesses may choose to improve is self-sufficiency wages. As minimum wage and inflation rise, businesses can raise workers’ pay to reflect the cost of living in the area. If businesses are not able to raise wages to meet inflation or cost of living, they can implement other strategies to promote equity and increase employee retention.

Businesses should consider the cost of employee turnover. Calculating the cost to your company to lose employees can help inform decision-making on how money could be redirected to retention efforts, including increasing wages or benefits.

Other strategies for businesses to consider are to conduct a wage assessment and a wage equity analysis. A wage assessment reveals how your company’s wages compare to similar organizations with similar roles in the region. A wage equity analysis compares wages of employees of your business doing similar work with similar experience and uncovers wage disparities that cannot be justified. Learn more about strategies to support self-sufficiency in the Self-Sufficiency Wages Quality Job Guide.

Not all businesses have the means to raise wages to meet inflation or the cost of living, especially smaller organizations with limited capacity. Businesses can instead promote job quality through other avenues, such as increasing worker safety, promoting worker engagement, implementing predictable hours, providing comprehensive benefits, creating accessible hiring and onboarding processes and supplying workers with the means to train and advance in their roles. Learn more about the Quality Jobs Initiative and how your business can start today!


Need assistance assessing, planning and implementing quality jobs strategies?

Contact the Workforce Southwest Washington Business Services Team through our contact form.

Learn more about the upcoming wage increase from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.

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