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What you need to know about Florida's minimum wage increase

Coins stacked on a balance scale.
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Florida’s minimum wage increased by $1 to $12 on Sept. 30. It will go up to $15 in the next three years.

Dr. Maria Ilcheva, the assistant director of the Metropolitan Center at Florida International University, said the increase is isn't enough for households to survive, especially in South Florida.

Florida’s minimum wage went up to $12 an hour on Sept. 30, thanks to a constitutional amendment approved by voters a couple of years ago. Despite that, it may not be enough to cover living expenses in the Sunshine State.

Dr. Maria Ilcheva is the assistant director of the Metropolitan Center at Florida International University. She spoke about the wage increase Friday with Tom Hudson on The Florida Roundup.

She said the increase is insufficient for what households need to survive, specifically in South Florida.

“When we did a calculation, a really, you know, conservative estimate using a two-person household, for two adults working full time at $12 an hour, that brings it up pre-tax household income at about $50,000. And when we look at basic necessities like housing, like transportation or health care, not even including child care, not including recreation or disposable income, 96% of that 50,000 for the average household would go towards these basic necessities,” Ilcheva said.

She also said employers’ job postings already reflect the wage increase, lessening its impact.

“I just checked that earlier today and in August, only about 2% of job postings are actually $12 or less. So obviously, our labor market has already reacted to this. And the labor shortages have caused wages to rise, both in terms of average and median wages as well as what's being offered by employers,” she said.

While the cost of living varies in regions across Florida, Ilcheva said wage increases have been especially apparent in densely populated areas where employers are concentrated. Other factors like competition and growth in nontraditional industry sectors are also driving wages up.

However, she said the state’s average wage remains behind the national number.

“Despite the diversification of Florida's economy, when, you know, in international trade and finance and health care and other sectors beyond tourism and hospitality, our economy is still structured around these sectors, retail, the service sectors in general. And that's what's leading to the lower wages on average in Florida and South Florida in comparison to national figures,” Ilcheva said.

As Florida’s minimum wage increases to $15 in the next three years, she said entry-level jobs and small employers will be affected. She also noted that the wage increase will impact certain industries, like food service, differently.

“Our economy is based on small businesses. Will they be able to compete for workers with the larger establishments who may be able to afford to pay these higher wages, right? The Targets and the Walmarts, they can increase wages but not in the same way as your cafecito shop on the corner of Eighth Street or your small retailer who is selling flowers,” she said.

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