Minimum Wage in Illinois

By Michael Gleason

History of Minimum Wage in Illinois

Illinois has had its own minimum wage laws since 1972. However, the national minimum wage has been in effect since 1938 during the Great Depression. At first, the minimum wage in Illinois was lower than the national rate. Business owners had to follow the national minimum wage law because, according to the Minimum Wage Act, the highest rate (whether it is state or federal) applies. However, in the past decade, Illinois's minimum wage has skyrocketed. The minimum wage in Illinois is now $8.25 per hour, compared with the national minimum of $7.25. From 2003 to 2010, the minimum wage in Illinois soared from $5.15 to $8.25, an increase of almost 40%! While this drastic increase has helped people trying to support a family off of a minimum wage job, it has also hurt countless business owners as they struggle to balance their checkbooks. Young workers are still cheap. though: workers under the age of 18 get paid only $7.75 per hour if they are paid minimum wage.
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The federal minimum wage in 1938 was $0.25. This rate has risen over time, and is now $7.25. Illinois used the federal minimum wage until 2004, when the state minimum was $5.50 while the national minimum was $5.15. Since 2004, Illinois's state minimum wage has been substantially higher than the national minimum wage.

Minimum Wage in Illinois Compared to the Rest of the United States

Illinois is tied for the sixth highest minimum wage at $8.25. The five states that are higher are Connecticut, Vermont, Oregon, California, and Washington. The highest state minimum wage is $9.32 (Washington), while the lowest minimum wage in a state is the national minimum wage of $7.25. Twenty seven states currently use the national minimum wage. Multiple states plan to raise their minimum wages in 2015. Even so, if Illinois decides to go through with the increase to 10 dollars/hour, it will have one of the highest minimum wages in the nation. While minimum wage workers may be happy about this, an increase of this magnitude will pinch business owners and force some companies to cut jobs or move out of Illinois.
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Nationwide, 9.1% of minimum wage workers are single parents. This means that these people are trying to support a family off of a salary that amounts to less than $20,000 per year. Unfortunately for most of these people, this is an impossible task. Currently, the only way for single parent to support a family is with a job that pays more than the minimum wage, which is achievable with a decent education. In the future, increases in the minimum wage, like the increase to $10 in Illinois, could make supporting a family off the minimum wage possible. However, many people argue that a raise in the minimum wage will have negative effects on the economy by increasing the unemployment rate. The debate in Illinois is currently raging: should we raise the minimum wage or lower it?