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Economy — Slow and steady increase benefits employers, annual cost-of-living adjustments

Among many changes taking effect Jan. 1, 15 cents were added to the Oregon minimum wage, earning nearly 100,000 employees a pay increase to $9.10 an hour.

This increase has occurred every year since 2002 with an annual cost-of-living adjustment.

Charlie Burr, communications director for the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI), said the rates are evaluated in August each year.

“We tend to make the announcement of what it will be early so businesses and (human resources) can plan for it,” Burr said.

He added that this method of adjustment means Oregon can avoid major spikes in minimum wages, as many other states see.

“The federal minimum wage is now $7.25, but if it jumps to $9 or $10, it’s different (for businesses),” he said.

“The Oregon system is pretty modest and it’s a slow and steady increase that Oregon employers appreciate.”

Although the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association said the increases hurt small businesses because each increase raises the cost of goods and services, local businesses seem to appreciate the state’s method.

“We tour the state a lot. The thing that comes up time and time again isn’t minimum wage but the need for a skilled work force,” Burr said. “The Legislature hasn’t really messed with it since 2002 because there’s a really broad support of it.”

Rich Peterson, owner of Nap’s Thriftway, said they have a contract with employees to always pay 10 cents above minimum wage. So this means with each increase, their pay increases even more.

“It has very little impact,” Peterson said, adding this is largely because he has only a handful of people who are paid around minimum wage. “I don’t think anyone should be paid minimum wage, except entry level jobs for young folks, but that’s just my opinion.”

This year’s increase will mean a minimum wage employee working 30 hours a week will make $234 more than last year.

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