While the official federal minimum wage has not risen from $7.25 since 2009, post-pandemic market forces have made $15 an hour a reality for many American workers, particularly in the restaurant, retail and travel industries. Additionally, some service workers are being offered benefits once reserved for professionals, such as 401(k) retirement accounts, flexible scheduling and signing bonuses. Thirty states and the District of Columbia have adopted wage floors that exceed the $7.25 federal minimum, while 11 states have passed laws to lift their minimum wages to $15 over time, and larger companies announcing pay raises to $15 or more have forced smaller employers to keep pace. Even in states that have cut unemployment benefits, employers who don't pay higher rates are having difficulty finding employees, say long-time recruiters.

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