Ten companies with starting wages over $10.50

The United States has a federal minimum wage of $7.25, but several major retailers and restaurant chains have raised their salary floors beyond that in recent years. These 10 companies go even further, with starting wages a touch higher than the $9 or $10 per hour that has become the industry standard for unskilled, entry-level workers. Can you guess which retailer comes out on top?

10. REI Co-op

Matt Peyton/AP Images for REI/File
Customers purchase items during the grand opening of an REI store in New York.

Starting wages: $10.94

Recreational Equipment, Inc. Co-op (REI) promotes outdoor adventures amongst its 12,000 employees as well as its consumers. Along with a minimum hourly wage of $10.94 an hour, employees get two paid vacation days each year for the purpose of exploring the outdoors, called "Yay Days." REI also encourages employees to reduce their carbon footprint by offering a 50 percent pre-tax subsidy on public transportation expenses.

The federal minimum wage in the United States got its last raise in 2009 when it went from $6.55 to $7.25. President Obama supports the Raise the Wage Act proposed by Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Representative Bobby Scott (D-Va.), which would raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020.

Average hourly nominal wages have grown 2.0-2.2 percent annually over the past six years, according to the Economic Policy Institute, with growth in the last year credited to low inflation rates. Growth in income inequality has accompanied growth in wages over the past few years: the top 5 percent of earners experienced the fastest wage growth between 2012 and 2015. That disparity has fueled activist campaigns like the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Fight for $15 campaign.

Still, as the job market has tightened, many companies have given their lowest-paid employees a boost over the past year or so. Retail giants Target and Walmart  have announced minimum wage hikes to $10 an hour for new hires. JPMorgan Chase will raise its minimum wage to $12 by February 2017, and in July Starbucks announced a five percent wage hike for employees to occur in the fall.

Cities and states have also chosen to raise the minimum wage. New York will raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2021 statewide and in New York City by 2018. The cities of Seattle and Portland have already adopted $15 minimum wages.

Starting wages higher than $10 an hour for unskilled, entry-level workers is still the exception in the retail industry across much of the country, but the retailers on this list start their employees at rates over $10.50. In many cases, an array of benefits accompany these wages. Can you guess which company pays employees some of the highest starting wages in the retail industry?

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