Pennsylvania's minimum wage hasn't risen from $7.25 per hour since 2013. It's the only state in the region that hasn't seen an increase in three and a half years, and where the minimum wage is still under eight dollars.
The Keystone Research Center, a Harrisburg-based labor advocacy group, compared low-income wages of Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Maryland and the District of Columbia in their 2017 State of Working in Pennsylvania report. The second lowest minimum wage in the region is Ohio's $8.15 per hour; the highest are in New York, at $9.70 per hour, and in the District of Columbia, at $12.50 per hour.
While higher costs of living in urban areas often drive up the minimum wage, the report's co-author Mark Price said Pennsylvania shouldn't be so far behind Ohio and West Virginia, whose economies are very similar to the commonwealth.
"While Pennsylvania's economy is performing reasonably well, there's still some challenges with regards to how well that performance translates into rising incomes for a broad group of workers," he said.
The current average earnings growth for the 10th percentile of workers in the rest of the region is 11.7 percent since 2011, while Pennsylvania falls behind at 3.7 percent. That means Pennsylvania's minimum wage workers are earning less over time compared to the other studied states.
To catch up to neighboring states, the report recommends the commonwealth's minimum wage be raised to $9 per hour, which they say would benefit almost 800,000 low-wage workers. But without policy changes, Price argued, wages will continue to stagnate for Pennsylvania's low to middle income labor force.
"Policy makers here and throughout the country have made choices that have led to an economy that grows and produces a lot of output," he said. "But it's not necessarily generating the kind of income growth for a broad group of people."
Governor Tom Wolf has proposed to increase the minimum wage to $12 in the 2018 Pennsylvania budget.