NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Let’s face it: We don’t have a free labor market in this country. But neither do 90% of the other countries in the world that enforce minimum wages on businesses to help keep food on the table of even the most unskilled of workers, according to the International Labor Organization.
In times of high unemployment, the question of whether the minimum wage helps or hurts the job situation inevitably finds its way into the public debate. And just as Americans are divided over the issue, so too are the states, which are given the freedom to set their own minimum wages, to an extent.
The federal minimum wage, currently set at $7.25 per hour, overrides any state that sets the bar lower, but only for workers in certain industries or for companies with at least $500,000 in annual volume.
As the map above shows, most states are in line with the federal government in determining the least amount of money that a worker should get paid for an hour of work. Five states (Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Louisiana) defer to the feds by not setting their own minimum wages at all, but the rest cover a wide spectrum of hourly rates, from just more than $5 for the lowest to more than $9 for the highest.
Here we take a look at the four states that set minimum wages below the federal rate, and the six that pay the highest minimum hourly wages in the country.