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Annual Federal Minimum Wage Rates, 1955-2021

The least you can earn

Way back in 1938, after decades of campaigning by labor rights activists, Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act and created the minimum wage rate for work in the United States. This guaranteed a basic level of income for all workers in the country, which helped keep families afloat during the Depression. In 2021 that minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.

The value of the dollar

The last increase to the minimum wage was in 2009, when it was set at the current rate. Accounting for inflation, this value was decreased quite a bit. For sake of comparison, we've converted all of the minimum wage rates to 1996 dollars (the year Infoplease hit the web) based on the Department of Labor's Consumer Price Index. The value of the minimum wage today is about 20% lower than when it was changed in 1996. The value of the minimum wage today is about 40% lower than its peak in 1968.

Value of the
minimum wage
Value of the
minimum wage
Value of the
minimum wage
YearCurrent
dollars
Constant
(1996)
dollars1
YearCurrent
dollars
Constant
(1996)
dollars1
YearCurrent
dollars
Constant
(1996)
dollars1
1955$0.75$4.391983$3.35$5.282011$7.25$5.06
19561.005.7719843.355.0620127.254.97
19571.005.5819853.354.8820137.254.87
19581.005.4319863.354.8020147.254.82
19591.005.3919873.354.6320157.254.80
19601.005.3019883.354.4420167.254.74
19611.156.0319893.354.2420177.254.64
19621.155.9719903.804.5620187.254.53
19631.256.4119914.254.9020197.254.45
19641.256.3319924.254.7520207.254.40
19651.256.2319934.254.6120217.254.19
19661.256.0519944.254.50
19671.406.5819954.254.38
19681.607.2119964.754.75
19691.606.8419975.155.03
19701.606.4719985.154.96
19711.606.2019995.154.85
19721.606.0120005.154.69
19731.605.6520015.154.56
19742.006.3720025.154.49
19752.106.1220035.154.39
19762.306.3420045.154.28
19772.305.9520055.154.14
19782.656.3820065.154.04
19792.906.2720075.854.41
19803.105.9020086.554.77
19813.355.7820097.255.30
19823.355.7820107.255.22
1. Adjusted for inflation using the CPI-U (Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers).

State laws

Today, nearly all states have their own minimum wage laws. 29 states and D.C. have a higher minimum wage than the federal minimum wage.

Six states increase their minimum wages automatically based on the cost of living (Alaska, Minnesota, Montana, Ohio, South Dakota, and Vermont).

The other states have specifically legislated increases (including Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, , Maine, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, and Washington). Some of the highest wages are in California, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Illinois, Maryland, and Rhode Island, which have passed minimum wage increases up to $15 per hour.

There are five states without state minimum wage laws (Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee) and two with minimum wages set below the federal level (Georgia and Wyoming). Due to the nature of federal legislation (as derived from the supremacy clause of the Constitution), these states still have to abide the federal wage.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor. Web: http://www.dol.gov/esa/whd/flsa/.
Labor and Employment
Labor and Employment