Jan. 2 (UPI) -- More than 4.5 million workers in 18 states got a raise on Jan. 1 as new minimum wage laws took effect.
Of the 18 states, Maine will see the biggest raise -- a $1 increase to $10 per hour. Four states will get the lowest raises of 15 cents more per hour. Those states are Florida ($8.25), Minnesota ($9.65), Missouri ($7.85) and Montana ($8.30).
Washington will get a 50-cent raise, giving the state the highest minimum wage in the country: $11.50 per hour.
Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told The Hill that states are more willing to pass legislation to raise minimum wage amounts because there are fewer high-wage jobs available and low-wage workers have more education than in the past.
"As the population of low-wage workers has become a bit more upscale, many places are willing to adjust their minimum wages, especially given the pervasive research that supports moderate increases," Bernstein said. "States and localities have been increasingly willing to raise their own minimum wages as the federal value has been stuck at $7.25."
The federal minimum wage of $7.25 hasn't been raised since 2009.
The Economic Policy Institute says the wage is "too low."
"If [minimum wage] had kept up with productivity since the late 1960s, the federal minimum wage would be worth about $19 an hour in 2018," the think tank said in a statement.
As higher wages, including living wages, become a greater part of the political conversation in the United States, the country still lags behind other countries in terms of a minimum wage that is comparable to the country's cost of living.
According to the Washington Post, the federal rate of $7.25 is the lowest national minimum wage, relative to the median wage, of any wealthy nation in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Congressional Republicans have blocked minimum wage increases since the 2009 raise, despite polls that show the majority of both parties agree with raising it.
According to the Huffington Post, the 18 states where the minimum wage increased on Jan. 1 include:
Alaska: $9.84, $.04 increase
Arizona: $10.50, $.50 increase
California: $11, $.50 increase
Colorado: $10.20, $.90 increase
Florida: $8.25, $.15 increase
Hawaii: $10.10, $.85 increase
Maine: $10, $1 increase
Michigan: $9.25, $.35 increase
Minnesota: $9.65, $.15 increase
Missouri: $7.85, $.15 increase
Montana: $8.30, $.15 increase
New Jersey: $8.60, $.16 increase
New York: $10.40, $.70 increase
Ohio: $8.30, $.15 increase
Rhode Island: $10.10, $.50 increase
South Dakota: $8.85, $.20 increase
Vermont: $10.50, $.50 increase
Washington: $11.50, $.50 increase