New Jersey’s minimum wage will go up at the beginning of 2017, but it’s nothing to write home about.

Starting Jan. 1, the Garden State’s minimum wage climbs from $8.38 to $8.44 an hour, and discussions about raising it to $15 an hour have been tabled until at least the beginning of 2018.

“$8.44 is a poverty wage and it’s really a shame because people are really struggling for just very basic needs on an everyday basis,” said Brandon McKoy, a policy analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective, a progressive think tank.

“Not only does that have terrible implications for people’s lives and their well-being but it’s really a drag on our economy and the state as a whole.”

Mckoy also said putting off the discussion about raising the minimum wage significantly for another year is not a good idea.

“I’m not sure about how Trenton is going to work this out, but the fact of the matter is that we have experience about raising the minimum wage, we know what to expect when it occurs, we have a lot of data and research,” he said.

McKoy noted “the last time we raised the minimum wage, opponents said we would lose 30,000 jobs, but instead we gained 90,000, so it’s not so much figuring out the ins and outs of the issue, it’s just getting it done and making sure we do what’s best for the workers of New Jersey.”

Michele Siekerka, president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, agreed it’s very hard to make ends meet when you’re making $8.44 an hour, but she said “instead of thinking of a minimum wage job as your career, it should be looked at as an entry-level position.

"The idea is you come in at a wage that is commensurate with your skill set and then we work to develop your skills.”

In other words, “as your skills increase, so does your wage.”

The industry group is glad any possible action to raise the minimum wage substantially has been put off for at least a year because the issue “requires a comprehensive discussion," Siekerka said.

A recent survey of NJBIA members found 70 percent of them would be negatively impacted by an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“They told us they would have to cut hours, if not cut positions. They told us they would hire only those people who have a higher skill-set in order to fill those types of jobs. They told us they will expedite their process to automating certain functions, which now they’re in no rush to do. So it has an impact all across the board,” she said.

“New Jersey companies are very excited to invest in workforce development skills. New Jersey employers don’t like the cost of turnover in the front lines. They’d rather see employees come in at the ground level and work their way up through a company,” she said.

Contact reporter David Matthau at

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