O P I N I O N
Stand up. Speak up. It’s your turn.
Well, it is New Year’s Day 2022 and just like every New Year’s Day since 2009 New Hampshire’s minimum wage remains $7.25 an hour.
Every other state in New England raised its minimum wage this year. Minimum wage workers in Rhode Island woke up today to a minimum wage of $12.25 an hour. In Vermont, they will be making $12.55, and in Maine, they will be making $12.75. Connecticut’s minimum wage is now $14 an hour and in Massachusetts, it is $14.25.
Critics who don’t believe in the concept of a minimum wage argue that market forces will resolve the issue. They point to the way wages have increased because of labor shortages brought on by the pandemic. Of course, New Hampshire’s labor shortage was an issue long before COVID. Businesses were constantly complaining about their inability to find workers when our pre-pandemic unemployment rate sat at 2.6 percent.
Maintaining a starvation wage as the minimum wage is not going to improve things. Why would a person choose to work in New Hampshire when they could drive across the border and be guaranteed a much higher wage and more respect?
Being an extreme outlier in this way is not helping us. The Federal Reserve reported that New Hampshire’s economy shrank by 3.3 percent in the third quarter of 2021, the only state in New England to experience this.
Also in 2021, Pew Research reported that personal income growth was around 4 percent in the rest of the country, while in New Hampshire it languished at 1.59 percent. We also dropped from 25th to 37th in CNBC’s Top States for Business rankings.
By defeating every attempt to raise the state’s minimum wage, Governor Sununu and our Legislature are sending a powerful message that workers in New Hampshire are not valued.
When the legislature reconvenes this week they could rectify this. House Bill 517, which would raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2024, was retained in the last session. The House could decide to ignore the committee recommendation and do the right thing and pass the bill.