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Almost 80 percent of U.S. workers now earn at least $15 an hour, a 'major shift from pre-pandemic norms'

For the first time ever, average pay for restaurant or supermarket workers has surpassed $15 an hour, The Washington Post reports, as reopening businesses scramble to rehire the workforce they cut amid pandemic restrictions and lockdowns.

Almost 80 percent of overall U.S. workers now earn at least $15 an hour, up 20 percent from 2014, writes the Post. Workers in some of the lowest-paying industries have seen "some of the biggest gains."

Although a higher average wage should not be viewed as a new minimum wage, "I think it's a guiding star wage," said Nick Bunker, economic research director at Indeed Hiring Lab. "It's a baseline wage that folks compare offers to." The pay jump — a "major shift from pre-pandemic norms" — is likely to be permanent, considering wages reportedly rarely fall once they rise.

By June, the average nonmanagerial restaurant worker was making $15.31 an hour, a more than 10 percent increase from the pre-pandemic $13.86 an hour. Supermarket workers saw a similar jump that month, with pay rising 7 percent from pre-pandemic levels to $15.04 an hour. Other affected businesses include "butchers and seafood markets, office supply [stores], liquor stores, parking-lot attendants, day-care services, janitorial services, and care for the elderly or disabled," per the Post

Bunker adds that although inflation "[rains] a little bit on the parade," its effects are likely to fade while wages stay high, meaning "people will have higher real earnings than would have otherwise." Read more at The Washington Post.