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Oregon’s minimum wage is going up

Oregon’s minimum wage increases July 1, rising to $14 an hour in the Portland metro area.

That means a raise for people working more than 213,000 of the state’s lowest paid jobs, according to a rough estimate from the Oregon Employment Department. How much of a raise depends on geography.

The state adopted a tiered approach to its minimum wage in 2016, with three different rates based on employer location. After July 1, the minimum wage will be $12.75 in “standard” counties, such as Deschutes and Lane, and $12 in “non-urban” counties, such as Baker and Morrow.

The $14 minimum wage applies within the Portland metro area’s urban growth boundary.

Oregon’s minimum wage goes up every year at this time, and it has risen steadily from $9.25 when the law took effect. The three minimum wages are, at a state level, among the highest in the country. The District of Columbia ranks highest at $15 an hour, followed by Washington at $13.69, according to the Employment Department.

The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 for more than a decade.

With the job market in flux, it’s hard to know exactly how many Oregonians will benefit from this year’s boost. Roughly 123,000 jobs paid minimum wage in the summer of 2020, but that number is considered low because of pandemic job losses. Tens of thousands of other jobs paid more than the old minimum wage, but less than the new. Those workers could also get pay raises after Thursday.

Typically, about 6% to 6.5% of the state’s jobs pay minimum wage. Eastern Oregon had a greater percentage of minimum wage jobs than other areas of the state in 2020.

This year’s boost comes as the pandemic and a tight labor market have already increased pressure on employers to pay low-wage workers more.

And in fact, average wages in Oregon have been rising during the pandemic. At first, that was because the economy lost huge numbers of low-wage jobs, as people such as bar and restaurant workers suffered mass layoffs. Higher paying jobs remained in the mix, so the state’s average weekly earnings skewed higher. But economists such as Josh Lehner at the Office of Economic Analysis say that effect has waned and underlying earnings have increased.

Next year — July 1, 2022 — will mark the last time Oregon’s minimum wage rises by a set amount. After that, it will be indexed to inflation based on the Consumer Price Index.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Kate Davidson