Minimum Wage Milestones: How Virginia’s Pay Rates Compare

Virginia’s minimum wage has evolved alongside the nation’s changing economic landscape. The commonwealth’s pay floor has undergone periodic adjustments to account for inflation and presently sits at $12 per hour. This rate exceeds the federally mandated minimum of $7.25. Still, it trails those adopted by several other states that have raised their respective minimums as advocates argue that low-wage workers struggle with the high cost of living. 

As politicians debate further increasing Virginia’s minimum wage or indexing it to inflation, it merits examining how the state’s baseline pay requirement has shifted relative to other locations and whether or not current levels still allow hard-working individuals and families to afford basic necessities like food and shelter given today’s economy.

Historical Minimum Wage Rates in Virginia

1980s and 1990s

In the late 1980s, Virginia’s minimum hourly pay rate was $3.35, close to the federal minimum wage level. Throughout the 1990s, the state legislature voted to boost the minimum pay gradually, but it mostly stayed near the federal baseline of $5.15 per hour as the decade ended.

Late 2000s Increases

In 2007 and 2008, Virginia’s lawmakers passed two separate bills that incrementally raised the minimum wage within the state. By 2009, employers in Virginia were required to pay workers at least $6.55 for each hour worked, as reflected in the Table below.

YearMinimum Wage ($/hour)

However, despite these increases, Virginia’s minimum Virginia minimum wage rate still lagged behind most neighboring states.

Recent Minimum Wage Incremental Increases

From 2010 onwards, the Virginia state legislature approved small boosts to the minimum wage every year or two years to try and keep up with rising living costs. Gradually, staged increases pushed the baseline pay level to $7.25 per hour. 

As of 2024, Virginia’s current minimum wage stands at $12 per hour after additional step-wise raises in recent years.

Comparing Virginia’s Current Rate

Surrounding Mid-Atlantic States

  • Maryland: $14/hour as of Early 2024
  • West Virginia: $8.75/hour as of Early 2024
  • North Carolina: $7.25/hour as of Early 2024

Other Southeast States

  • Georgia: $5.15/hour as of Early 2024
  • South Carolina: $7.25/hour as of Early 2024
  • Florida: $12/hour as of Early 2024 (will reach $15 by 30th Sept 2026)

States With Minimum Wages Closest to Virginia Minimum Wage as Of 2024

StateHourly Rate
New Mexico$12.00/hour
Rhoda Island$13.00/hour
South Dakota$10.80/hour
Virgin Islands$10.50/hour

Virginia’s minimum wage of $12.00 per hour tracks closely amongst several states such as Delaware, Arizona, and Missouri. However, many surrounding Mid-Atlantic and Southeast states have notably lower minimum hourly pay rates than Virginia. Maryland and Florida, though, have implemented plans to increase their minimum wages to $15/hour in the coming years. 

The Cost of Living in Virginia

Earning Virginia’s current minimum wage of $12 per hour equates to an annual salary of $24,960 for someone working full-time (defined as 40 hours per week for 52 weeks). However, this amount falls short of living costs in many parts of the state.

Annual Salary at $12/hr$24,960
Virginia Average Cost of Living$48,249

Virginia’s cost of living index in 2021 was $48,249, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which accounts for typical expenses like housing, food, utilities, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous costs. Given current price levels, this disparity makes supporting oneself, let alone a family, on the state’s Virginia minimum wage quite tricky.

For a single-income household dependent solely on the Virginia minimum wage, maintaining an average standard of living would be an arduous task. Budgeting would require sacrificing discretionary expenses, and building adequate savings would be nearly impossible. 

However, two full-time minimum wage earners could more plausibly manage regular living costs between their combined salaries of $49,920 before taxes. Still have questions? Give WM Accounting & Bookkeeping a call. 

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