In 2009 the federal minimum wage was raised to $7.25 an hour—and hasn’t budged since. For a full-time worker putting in a 40-hour week, that's just $58 a day, or $290 a week, before taxes. A report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition reveals that more than three-quarters of renters live in a region where minimum wage workers would have to toil for more than 60 hours a week just to afford a one-bedroom apartment. Around 20.6 million Americans—nearly one hourly worker in three—works at or near minimum wage.
Today, however, unemployment levels are lower than they've been since the end of World War II. The roaring economy has created what MarketWatch refers to as a "battle for unskilled workers.” These workers are largely the kind who have historically filled the ranks at America's large chains, which have long been associated with minimum-wage work. The contest for workers is prompting some of America's biggest chains to raise minimum wages and beef up benefits packages to lure new employees.
Here's a look at 25 major chains who pay more than the federal minimum. It's important to note that some states enforce minimum wages that are higher than the federal rate of $7.25, and your city's minimum wage could be even higher than your state's. Right now, Washington D.C. boasts the highest minimum wage in America at $13.25 an hour.
Read on to find out which 25 major chains that pay above minimum wage.
As of Sept. 16, 2018, all Target team members can earn no less than $12 an hour. The wage increase came as part of a massive push to hire seasonal workers, who were in high demand among top retailers at the time. Target has pledged to increase its starting pay to $15 an hour by 2020.
At the start of 2018, Walmart raised its starting pay to $11 for all hourly associates. The company also expanded its benefits package to include perks like paid maternity and paternity leave as well as cash bonuses.
In Spring 2018, Costo not only joined the wage-hike fray, but upped the ante when it announced that 130,000 employees would be getting a raise. Costco, which does more sales than any retailer in the U.S. with the exception of Walmart, boosted its starting wages by $1 to $14 or $14.50 an hour, depending on location. Existing employees also got a boost of 25 to 50 cents an hour.
In October 2018, during the runup to the holiday season, Amazon changed the game when it announced that its more than a quarter-million U.S. employees—not to mention 100,000 seasonal workers and all new hires—would enjoy a $15 minimum wage. The massive bump in starting pay included full-time workers, part-time workers, and temporary workers, including those contracted out by temp agencies.
When Amazon announced its new industry-leading minimum wage, Whole Foods workers rejoiced. Amazon recently bought the grocery chain, which means that anyone employed or hired by Whole Foods is also guaranteed no less than $15 an hour.
In 2015, Ikea announced that its average national minimum wage was jumping to $11.87 an hour starting the following year, along with a slew of pay increases across the board. As part of the announcement, Ikea promised that no worker would make less than $10 an hour moving forward.
In April 2018, CVS hourly workers learned they would soon be making no less than $11 an hour, no matter their position. The drug and retail chain also announced a souped-up benefits package, which includes paid parental leave and a freeze on health care costs for employees enrolled in company-sponsored insurance plans.
All associates at West Coast fast-food chain In-N-Out make at least $12 an hour—that includes part-time employees, who also enjoy the company's generous benefits package. According to the California Sun, In-N-Out is widely considered one of the most employee-centric fast-food chains in America. Managers there average $160,000 a year, triple the industry average and much more than the average architect, software engineer, or lawyer makes in the Golden State.
According to Time, Trader Joe's does not comment on the salaries it pays, but the grocery chain is known as a good employer that fosters a positive work environment, pays well (captains can easily make six figures), offers solid benefits, and promotes from within. While mum's the word regarding entry-level pay at the corporate level, not a single open position currently advertised at Trader Joe's starts at less than $11 an hour.
In 2014, years before the tight labor market stoked fierce competition for good workers, Gap raised its minimum wage to $9 an hour. A year later in 2015, the company increased starting pay for all employees to $10 an hour.
When Gap boosted its starting wage, Old Navy employees got in on the action as well. The parent company's policy was applied to both stores, which means hourly pay at Old Navy also bottoms out at a minimum of $10 an hour.
Right around the time Banana Republic began instituting its Reserve In Store shopping program in 2016, the workers who were tasked with rolling out the new initiative received some welcome news. Like their colleagues at the Gap and Old Navy, all Banana Republic workers across the chain's more than 600 stores saw their minimum pay increased to $10 an hour.
As with rival grocery chain Kroger, it is unclear if any Publix employees had been working for minimum wage, but if they were, that all stopped in February 2018 when Publix raised entry-level wages to compete for unskilled workers in America's tightening job market. The company's stock soared when it announced the move, and Publix also promotes from within and offers all employees a crack at its company stock program.
In 2015, under intense pressure from employee protestors and living-wage advocates, McDonald's agreed to raise the company's base pay by $1 above minimum wage. The catch is that the increase only applies to company-owned stores, which account for only about 10% of the 14,000 McDonald's restaurants that dot the American landscape and which collectively employ about 750,000 people. The bulk of McDonald's are franchise locations, whose owners might pay more or less than the company's minimum.
According to CNN, Starbucks does not reveal employee compensation data, but the company does say that it pays every employee in the country above the federal minimum wage. Starting salaries, however, vary state by state.
T.J. Maxx began raising its minimum wage to $9 an hour in 2015. The following year, employees who remained with the company for at least six months would see another increase, this time to $10 an hour.
HomeGoods celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2017, and the entry-level employees who work there celebrated with a little bit more money in their pockets. Like T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, HomeGoods set $9 an hour as the new minimum wage starting in 2016, with an increase promised to those who stayed on board for six months.
Forbes and other major publications have long showered grocery chain Aldi with accolades for fostering an excellent work environment, and the company promises "industry-leading" wages and "competitive salaries." While Aldi doesn't make a statement about its minimum wage, it is currently publicizing hiring events that advertise full- and part-time store associate positions starting at $12.35 an hour in Pennsylvania, $12.70 in Missouri and Texas, $13.10 an hour in New Jersey, Delaware, Florida, and Vermont, and $13.90 an hour in New York. None of the chain's dozens of hiring events list a single entry-level store associate position starting at less than $12 an hour.
In October 2018, right around the time many of America's corporate giants were using wage increases to draw talent in a tight labor market, drugstore chain Walgreen's reported that it would be cutting employee benefits. The move, however, was part of an effort to free up funds that were needed to boost worker pay. While Walgreens doesn't list pay for the positions it advertises, the company announced wage increases for 100,000 employees across most entry-level positions.
Although it is unclear if any Kroger employees worked for minimum wage before April 2018, the grocery chain that month announced wage increases for all employees as part of a move to hire 11,000 new workers, which means every worker in the chain now earns more than minimum wage. In the Cincinnati area, for example, base pay for Kroger employees jumped to $10 an hour, which increases to $11 after a year of service.
In October 2018, MarketWatch reported that Lowe's had "upped wages to around $12 an hour" for entry-level employees. While the hardware giant doesn't spell that out in writing, the company's LinkedIn profile lists a variety of minimum wage job openings around the United States, including paint customer service associate, tools associate, early morning receiver and stocker, and part-time cashier. None start at less than $12 an hour.
Panda Express doesn't list hourly wages for entry-level service and kitchen positions, but the company does say that both jobs pay $23,000 a year plus $5,600 in benefits for a total of $28,600 a year. Presuming two weeks of unpaid vacation, a minimum wage hourly worker who puts in a 40-hour week for 50 weeks a year would earn $14,500 annually, $15,800 per year if the vacation time is compensated. Either way, the Panda Express base pay alone is well above minimum wage.