Workers staying in Wisconsin despite higher minimum wages in Minnesota

Published: Jan. 3, 2019 at 5:58 PM CST
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For the past eight years, minimum wage in Wisconsin has remained the same as at the federal level, $7.25 an hour.

But starting this week, across the river in Minnesota, the minimum wage jumped to $9.86 for those working for companies that generate revenue over $500,000 a year.

Despite the more than $2.50 difference, there are many reasons Wisconsinites are not crossing the Mississippi for work.

"First and foremost people want to like the job that they're working in. So earning a few dollars more per hour is not going to cause them to necessarily gravitate away from the job if they really truly love it," said La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Vicki Markussen.

But the biggest reason is that right now most employees are getting paid more than minimum wage.

"The number of businesses that are paying minimum wage are pretty few and far between," said Markussen. "Simply because they have learned they have to pay more than minimum wage to attract the workforce, it's just what's happening."

Right now, La Crosse has an unemployment rate of 2.1 percent, leaving employers fighting for a small pool of employees.

Currently the unemployment rate in La Crosse is tied for the lowest it's ever been in history, making it an employee market in the Coulee Region.

"We know that we're going to have a tight labor market for at least another ten years. What's happening is the baby boomers are retiring faster than the large millennial generation is coming of age and entering the workforce. So that delay is creating this really tight labor market that we have right now and that's what's causing some interesting wage increases," said Markussen.

Currently 29 states plus Washington D.C. have state minimum wages that are above the federal level.