Following the lead of the federal government, the Utah Labor Commission has raised the minimum wage from $5.85 an hour to $6.55 an hour, effective July 24.

Each state has to adopt minimum-wage standards that at least meet the U.S. Department of Labor's minimum, in the rare case that an employer does not conduct interstate commerce, said Utah Labor Commission spokeswoman Robyn Barkdull.

"It has always been the policy that Utah has adopted the federal minimum wage rate," Barkdull said.

After 10 years of no minimum-

wage increases, the federal government began a series of three 70-cent increases of the minimum wage. In 2007, the rate went from $5.15 an hour to $5.85. This year's rate goes up another 70 cents, and in 2009, it will be $7.25 an hour.

The new wage laws do not raise the $2.13 an hour minimum earned by "tipped employees," such as restaurant servers who make at least $30 a month in tips. If the $2.13 an hour plus tips falls short of $6.55 an hour over a pay period, the employer must pay the difference.

The new wage laws also do not change the $4.25 an hour "training wage" for employees who are minors, during their first 90 days with a single employer. Companies may choose to pay more, but after 90 days, those employees are entitled to wages at the new minimum-wage rates.

Linda Hilton of Crossroads Urban Center said that the increase in minimum wages will help the working poor, but it won't alleviate all their problems.

"It's still tight," she said. "Before the price of gas started skyrocketing, that would have still not met basic expenses for most low-income people."

According to the Labor Law Center, 29 states and Washington, D.C., require companies to pay above the the federal minimum wage. In California, the state minimum wage has increased to $8 an hour.

"I do know one reason other states are having the minimum wage that is higher than the federal minimum wage is so they can keep workers," Hilton said. "A lot of times, workers are priced out of local markets. Park City is a prime example. They can't live there and eat there, and transportation costs to a Park City job are a lot."

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