WASHINGTON - About 2 million Americans get a raise Thursday as the federal minimum wage rises 70 cents. The bad news: Higher gas and food prices are swallowing it up, and some small businesses will pass the cost of the wage hike to consumers. The increase, from $5.85 to $6.55 per hour, is the second of three annual increases required by a 2007 law. Next year's boost will bring the federal minimum to $7.25 an hour.
Workers like Walter Jasper, who earns minimum wage at a car wash in Nashville, Tenn., are happy to take the raise, but will still struggle with the higher gas and food prices hammering Americans.
"It will help out a little," said Jasper, who with his fiancee support a family of seven, and who earns the minimum plus commissions when customers order premium car-wash services.
The bus fare he pays each day to get to work already went up to $4.80 this spring from $4. "I'd like to be on a job where I can at least get a car," he said.
Last week, the Labor Department reported the fastest inflation since 1991 — 5 percent for June compared with a year earlier. Energy costs soared nearly 25 percent. The price of food rose more than 5 percent.