The average pay for supermarket and restaurant workers has climbed to more than $15 per hour for the first time in a “major shift from pre-pandemic norms,” The Washington Post reports.
Overall, about 80% of all workers in the United States now earn at least $15 per hour, up from 60% in 2014.
After years of activists fighting to raise the minimum wage to $15, many large companies have increased pay to $15 on their own, particularly amid a worker shortage this year. CVS said it will increase its starting pay to $15 by next summer, joining companies like Target, Best Buy, Costco, and Disney.
But economists also warned that a $15 average wage is not the same as a $15 minimum wage since half of workers still earn less.
“It wouldn’t be fair to call $15 an hour the new minimum, but I think it’s a guiding star wage. It’s a baseline wage that folks compare offers to,” Nick Bunker, an economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab, told the Post.
Average wage up 8%:
Overall, the average hourly wage for non-managers in all industries is now $25.83, a 7.8% increase from pre-pandemic levels.
The average wage has grown faster than before, largely as a result of workers seeking higher wages before returning to the labor force amid the pandemic.
But wages in certain sectors have been even higher, rising 10.5% among hospitality workers since the pandemic began and 9.7% among retail workers.
Before the pandemic, non-manager restaurant employees earned about $13.86 per hour but by June that rose to $15.31. The average supermarket wage is now $15.04 per hour.
The trend is expected to continue since workers are unlikely to stay in lower-paying jobs when better-paying gigs in the same industry are available.
Lower-income jobs paying more too:
Some industries are still seeing average wages under $15 but those salaries have grown too.
Convenience worker pay has risen by 16.9% since the pandemic began to $13.16. Cafeteria and buffet workers have seen pay rise by 16.8% to $14.08.
But the growing salaries have also resulted in growing prices and inflation sparked by increased government spending amid the pandemic has largely wiped out most of the wage gains.
But economists expect wages to continue to rise while inflation is expected to be more temporary.
“The inflation numbers rain a little bit on the parade of these strong nominal wage growth numbers,” Bunker told the Post, predicting that once inflation fades “people will have higher real earnings than would have otherwise.”