WASHINGTON (AP) — The signs and banners are dotted along suburban commercial strips and hanging in shop windows and restaurants, evidence of a new desperation among America’s service-industry employers: “Now Hiring, $15 an hour.”
It is hardly the official federal minimum wage — at $7.25, that level hasn’t been raised since 2009 — but for many lower-skilled workers, $15 an hour has increasingly become a reality.
Businesses, particularly in the restaurant, retail and travel industries, have been offering a $15 wage to try to fill enough jobs to meet surging demand from consumers, millions of whom are now spending freely after a year in lockdown. And many of the unemployed, buoyed by stimulus checks and expanded jobless aid, feel able to hold out for higher pay.
The change since the pandemic has been swift. For years, and notably in the 2020 presidential race, labor advocates had trumpeted $15 an hour as a wage that would finally allow low-paid workers to afford basic necessities and narrow inequality. It struck many as a long-term goal.
Now, many staffing companies say $15 an hour is the level that many businesses must pay to fill their jobs.