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Tight U.S. Labor Market Makes $15 an Hour De Facto Minimum Wage

Pay may rise above the target set by Biden and unions because of market forces, not mandates.
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Photo illustration by 731. Photos: Alamy (2), AP Photo (3), USA Today Networks (2)

The push for a $15 federal minimum wage may have stalled in Congress, but Covid-19 is helping steer the U.S. ever closer toward a key objective of labor unions and their allies in the White House and on Capitol Hill.

An analysis of jobs posted from spring 2019 to spring 2021 from a sampling of cities shows many service-sector industries crossed above a $15 starting wage during the period, often by significant margins, according to Emsi Burning Glass, an analytics firm that tracks job postings to glean labor market insights. The trend seems to have gathered steam in the recovery from the Covid recession, with several large employers, including Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and Chipotle Mexican Grill, bumping up starting or average hourly pay to $15 or more. Amazon.com Inc. recently announced it was boosting average starting wages for open logistics jobs to $18 an hour.