California’s New Fast Food Minimum Wage in Context

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Updated 4/12/2024

On April 1st, California increased the minimum wage to $20 per hour for fast-food workers, making it the highest statewide minimum wage in the country.

While there have been numerous news stories about layoffs stemming from the new minimum wage, the lucky workers who keep their jobs will see a large pay increase.

To put the new fast-food minimum wage increase in perspective, researchers at analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Department of Labor, and the US Census Bureau. They found the following.

Fast-food workers in CA will now make $6,430 more per year on average

At the state level, the typical fast-food worker will now make $6,430 more than before the minimum wage hike, representing an 18% increase. However, workers in some metros will see an even larger increase on average.

Metro Pay Increase Percentage Increase Previous Wage
Redding, CA $8,430 25% $33,170
Bakersfield, CA $8,290 25% $33,310
Madera, CA $8,280 25% $33,320
Fresno, CA $8,190 25% $33,410
Merced, CA $8,140 24% $33,460
Chico, CA $8,080 24% $33,520
Visalia-Porterville, CA $8,080 24% $33,520
Yuba City, CA $8,030 24% $33,570
Stockton-Lodi, CA $7,520 22% $34,080
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA $7,450 22% $34,150

Fast-food workers in California now make significantly more than fast-food workers in other states

Fast-food workers in California will now make up to $20k more than fast-food workers in other states. Even when accounting for cost-of-living differences, fast-food workers in California will still earn up to $12k more than their counterparts in other states.

CA fast-food workers now have the highest state-level minimum wage in the country

California’s fast-food workers now have the highest state-level minimum wage by nearly $4. For context, the minimum wage in California for most workers is just $16 and in New York, $15.

Even most city-level minimum wages, typically higher due to the increased cost of living, are lower than the new statewide minimum wage for fast-food workers in California.

Cities with the highest minimum wage

City Minimum Wage (January 2024)
Tukwila, WA $20.29
Seattle, WA $19.97
SeaTac, WA $19.71
West Hollywood, CA $19.08
Mountain View, CA $18.75
Emeryville, CA $18.67
Sunnyvale, CA $18.55
Denver, CO $18.29
San Francisco, CA $18.07
El Cerrito, CA $17.92

Fast-food workers now make more than high school graduates in California

While most fast-food roles do not require a high school diploma, workers lucky to secure a position will now make more than their high school graduate counterparts.

Full Data

Data Source

Data on fast-food workers was sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics while data on income by education level was sourced from the US Census Bureau. Cost-of-living data was sourced from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and state-level minimum wage data from the Department of Labor. City-level minimum wage data was sourced manually.

About the Author
Kyle Fretwell of
Kyle Fretwell has worked as a researcher and data journalist for over a decade. His work has appeared in publications such as Bloomberg, Fox Business, MSN, USA Today, CNBC, and the Houston Chronicle.

He now manages's content team and is a regular fixture at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville.

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