Target’s pay hike could be especially beneficial for North Carolina workers

Target’s pay hike could be especially beneficial for North Carolina workers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Katherine Peralta | The Charlotte Observer) - In an effort to lure and retain workers, Target is raising its minimum hourly wage to $11 starting in October, and then to $15 by the end of 2020. The move could be especially beneficial for workers in North Carolina.

It is unclear how many Target employees in the Charlotte region will be affected – a spokeswoman for the Minnesota-based department store chain could not be reached. Target has 16 stores in the Charlotte metro area, and the company says it employs roughly 160 people per store.

Target's pay hike is part of an overall strategy to reinvent its business. But its move to increase entry-level hourly pay to $15 far exceeds not only the U.S. minimum of $7.25 an hour but also the base pay of competitors such as Walmart, the nation's largest private employer, which lifted its minimum hourly pay to $10 last year.

Target's new $11 an hour rate is higher than the minimum wage in 48 states and matches the minimum wage in Massachusetts and Washington state, the company said in a statement.

Retail pay hikes will likely be a boost to many low-wage workers in North Carolina, where the minimum wage has been $7.25 an hour – the same as the national wage – since 2009. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 38,000 people made minimum wage in North Carolina in 2016, and 52,000 made less than that (in areas such as food service and other tipped jobs.)

The controversial House Bill 2, repealed last spring, explicitly forbade local governments from setting their own minimum wages. HB2's replacement, HB142, is much less specific and says simply: "No local government in this State may enact or amend an ordinance regulating private employment practices."

North Carolina lawmakers' efforts to raise the state minimum wage – such as a bill last spring that would have raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021 – have fizzled in the Republican-controlled House and Senate.

Target's changes come at a time of growing concern for the hourly workers' plight. At the same time, competition for workers is becoming increasingly stiff.