By Trang Do

TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) — Tens of thousands of workers in New Jersey will get a boost in pay in 2021. The state’s minimum wage will increase by a dollar in the new year.

Just a few months into his first job, 17-year-old high school student Vincent Goldschmidt learned he would be getting a raise as a cook at a fast-casual restaurant, going from $11 to $12 an hour on Jan. 1.

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“I’m excited for it. You think a dollar doesn’t make that big of a difference, but over time, a couple of paychecks, you’ll see the amount go up and it just gives you a little more confidence,” he said.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill last year to raise the Garden State’s minimum wage a dollar each year until it reaches $15 in 2024. Murphy said he had no hesitation moving forward with the increase, despite the state of the economy.

“We need more federal help to help us help our small businesses and we need to let our minimum wage continue its march onto $15,” he said in a news conference Wednesday. “We have far too many people in our state living below the poverty line. So that’s another big step.”

Dr. Yana Rodgers, an economist who is also the director of the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University, agrees.

“This will help to close several wage gaps, because low-wage workers are disproportionally female, they are disproportionally minorities, and also even disabled workers are disproportionally represented,” she said.

Skeptics of a $15 minimum wage fear it could lead to job losses, but Rodgers said extensive research shows that’s not the case.

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“What we call a disemployment effect just isn’t there,” she said. “They’re very small or zero and they’re not statistically significant, so when business groups raise concerns that there will be massive job losses from raising the minimum wage, that does not happen.”

Seasonal and small employers with fewer than six employees and agricultural workers have a longer timeline to reach $15 an hour. Cash wages for tipped employees will increase from $3.13 to $4.13 an hour, a sector which, as underlined by the COVID-19 pandemic, puts workers at extreme financial risk.

“I would urge legislators to also raise the sub-minimum wage to the regular minimum wage, so that people are not as reliant on tips to make a living,” Rodgers said.

New Jersey is one of eight states in the country that either has or is working toward a $15 minimum wage.

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