What’s the Highest Minimum Wage in 2023?

By Kris Janisch
Updated May 2023

What’s the Highest Minimum Wage in 2023?

Which jurisdiction can lay claim to the highest minimum wage in 2023? It’s complicated.

What’s the highest minimum wage in 2023?

As jurisdictions across the U.S. continue to pass new minimum wage laws, the often-discussed $15 threshold has long since been passed in some places.

So, which jurisdiction in has the highest minimum wage rate in 2023? Well, as with most areas of employment law, it’s somewhat complicated.

Minimum Wage Management. Simplified.

What’s the Highest Minimum Wage in 2023?

Why isn’t there a straightforward answer to which jurisdiction has the highest minimum wage rate in 2023? The reason is industry-specific rates.

In California, there has been a recent trend of new ordinances that would require a $25 minimum wage for healthcare workers, from janitors to clinical staff. Note, however, that there have been hiccups regarding the implementation of some California healthcare workers minimum wage rates.

Some of those special rates in California are on hold from legal challenges, while others have been moved to ballot referendums. Still, should any of these ordinances go through in 2023, the $25 mark for healthcare workers would be the highest minimum wage in the U.S.

2022 Minimum Wage Ballot Results

Likewise, some might say the highest minimum wage in 2023 is in SeaTac, Wash.

But it is also an industry-specific rate, this time for hospitality and transportation. SeaTac increases the minimum wage rate for those workers to $19.06 per hour, effective Jan. 1, 2023. The city does not have a standard rate for other types of employees. (And also note the ballot measure in Tukwila, Wash.)

In addition to SeaTac, employers should also keep an eye out for special minimum wage rates for hotel employees, especially in California. Some jurisdictions have different rates for hotel workers that are well above their standard minimum wage, such as Oakland, where it’s $23.15 for hotel workers who are not offered health benefits.

How Many States Have a $15 Minimum Wage?

Highest 2023 Minimum Wage – Standard Rate

OK, so industry-specific minimum wage rates can be a challenge. Which jurisdiction has the highest standard 2023 rate?

As of this writing (barring new legislation), it is Seattle, where the minimum wage in 2023 jumps to $18.69 for large employers. However, effective July 1, 2023, the city of West Hollywood, Calif., will see its citywide minimum wage reach $19.08.

That may come as a surprise to many employers. California has long been a pacesetter in terms of employment law, and some may have suspected the highest rate would be in one of its cities. Indeed, many cities in California aren’t far behind Seattle for the highest 2023 minimum wage.

Effective Jan. 1, 2023, many California cities will be at or above the $17 an hour mark (some having already breached that number), including:

  • El Cerrito
  • Emeryville
  • Cupertino
  • Los Altos
  • Mountain View
  • Palo Alto
  • Petaluma
  • San Jose
  • Santa Clara
  • Santa Rosa
  • Sonoma
  • Sunnyvale
  • West Hollywood

Lastly, note that some cities in California have not announced their indexed 2023 rates at this time.

Highest 2023 State Minimum Wage Rate

At the beginning of 2022, California became the first state with a $15 minimum wage. Now, the state has announced that all employers in California, regardless of size, must pay a $15.50 minimum wage, effective Jan. 1, 2023.

But the title for the highest state minimum wage rate in 2023 belongs to Washington, at $15.74.

Meanwhile, Hawaii passed a minimum wage law in 2022 that will take its minimum wage to $18 in 2028. Depending on indexing and inflation figures, or new legislation, it could eventually be the highest.

Finally, Washington, D.C., also has a high minimum wage worth noting. Its minimum wage went up to $16.10 on July 1, 2022, and will again next year at that time.

What does all this add up to? The so-called Fight for $15 continues, but many jurisdictions are well beyond that threshold. And employers are facing continual challenges to keep up with lawmakers’ efforts to craft new minimum wage rates.

“The Fight for $15 didn’t end at $15, and beginning July 1, workers should expect to see this latest increase reflected in their pay,” Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser said in July 2022. “We know that a strong economy and a strong workforce means having a strong, competitive minimum wage. We were proud to make D.C. a leader in the Fight for $15, and now we are proud to build on those efforts as our work continues to give all Washingtonians their fair shot.”


If someone were to ask, “What’s the highest minimum wage in 2023?” how would you respond?

Seattle seems like the safe answer, but as the above illustrates, simple answers and employment law compliance rarely go together.

This Employment Law News blog is intended for market awareness only, it is not to be used for legal advice or counsel.

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