On Thursday, minimum wage in Deschutes County jumps from $12 to $12.75.
In Crook and Jefferson counties, minimum wage will rise from $11.50 to $12.
But those increases may barely matter this year, because not many people in Central Oregon are making minimum wage right now.
“We honestly wouldn’t even get people to walk through the door if we were hiring at minimum wage,” Food4Less Store Director Aaron Price said.
Food4Less in Bend — like so many other businesses in Central Oregon — is trying to hire for several open positions.
Price has offered several dollars more than the current minimum wage to new hires for some time.
“There’s such a crunch for the labor market that to get quality employees to come talk to you, you need to offer something that’s going to draw them in,” Price.
Oregon’s minimum wage has gone up each year since 2016.
Regional Economist Damon Runburg said the bump doesn’t really affect businesses this year, because a recent high demand for workers has forced businesses to raise wages anyway.
“The market rate — what businesses actually have to pay to get these sort of what we would consider minimum wage occupations filled — is far above that $12.75,” Runburg said. “This is an interesting raise where it’s probably going to have little meaningful impact.”
But at least the annual wage increase on July 1 is something businesses can prepare for.
“The rapid increase in labor costs that we’ve seen in this year, in the last 12 months, is one that I think is far more difficult for businesses, because they have to on the fly adapt to the changing labor market,” Runburg said. “It means that ultimately they have to eat that cost themselves or pass that off to consumers.”
But on the upside, Runburg said the high local wages might attract more workers into the labor market.