Minimum Wage North Carolina: North Carolina Minimum Wage 2024

January 3, 2024

North Carolina minimum wage laws have always been a crucial aspect for restaurant and business owners. Understanding these laws is not just a legal obligation, but also a key factor in planning business strategies and maintaining employee satisfaction. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve deep into the details of the minimum wage in North Carolina, ensuring that you, as an employer, are well-informed and prepared for the year 2024.

What is the Minimum Wage in North Carolina?

As of January 2024, the minimum wage in North Carolina remains steady at $7.25 per hour. Despite significant discussions in the legislative sphere, this rate has remained the same. 

In March 2023, Senate Bill 440 was introduced, proposing a dramatic increase to $15 per hour, slated to take effect from January 1, 2024. This proposed hike marked a potential shift from the longstanding $7.25 rate. 

However, as of the latest updates, this bill was directed to the Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate in April 2023 and has not progressed further. Consequently, the minimum wage in North Carolina has not experienced the anticipated increase.

Minimum Wage for Tipped Employees in North Carolina

As of 2024, the state mandates that tipped employees must be paid at least $2.13 per hour. This rate, however, is contingent upon the total earnings of the employee (hourly wage plus tips) meeting or surpassing the general minimum wage in North Carolina, which stands at $7.25 per hour.

Should an employee’s combined income (tips plus the $2.13 hourly rate) fall short of the $7.25 hourly minimum wage, it is the employer’s responsibility to compensate for the shortfall. This ensures that every employee earns at least the minimum wage in North Carolina.

Moreover, North Carolina’s regulations allow employers to consider tips as a portion of the wage (known as a tip credit). To implement this, employers must clearly communicate this policy to their employees and guarantee they retain all their tips. The only exception is for legitimate tip pooling arrangements, where the employee must keep at least 85% of the received tips. Employers are also obligated to maintain precise records of the tips and the tip credits claimed.

This framework aligns with the federal guidelines and upholds the state’s specific rules on minimum wage for tipped employees. As an employer, understanding and adhering to these regulations is key to ensuring legal compliance and maintaining a transparent, fair workplace.

Historical Minimum Wage Rates in North Carolina

The journey of the minimum wage in North Carolina over the past decade has been steady, marked by consistency rather than change. Since 2014, the minimum wage in North Carolina has remained constant at $7.25 per hour. This figure, maintained for a decade, reflects the state’s adherence to the federal minimum wage standard.

2014 - $7.25

2015 - $7.25

2016 - $7.25

2017 - $7.25

2018 - $7.25

2019 - $7.25

2020 - $7.25

2021 - $7.25

2022 - $7.25

2023 - $7.25

2024 – $7.25

Source: Labor Law Center

North Carolina Minimum Wage vs Federal Minimum Wage

When discussing the minimum wage in North Carolina, it’s important to recognize how it compares to the federal minimum wage. This comparison can highlight any differences or similarities that business owners must know.

Federal Minimum Wage

At the federal level, the minimum wage has remained static at $7.25 per hour since 2009. This figure serves as a baseline across the country, but states have the autonomy to set higher wages. The federal minimum wage is the absolute minimum an employer can pay an employee in the United States, barring certain exceptions.

State Minimum Wage

In contrast to some states that have opted for higher rates, North Carolina aligns its minimum wage with the federal rate of $7.25 per hour. This alignment means that employers in North Carolina must pay their employees at least this amount. However, it’s worth noting that this is the minimum standard, and employers are always free to offer higher wages.

The consistency between the state and federal minimum wages in North Carolina simplifies the wage structure for employers. However, it’s important to recognize that this isn’t the case in every state. For instance, California has set its minimum wage significantly higher at $16.00 per hour in 2024, showcasing the variability across the country.

North Carolina Minimum Wage Exemptions

While the majority of employees are eligible for the standard minimum wage in North Carolina, there are noteworthy exceptions and exemptions that employers must be aware of. These variations are not just nuances but significant legal considerations that can impact your business operations.

  • Tipped Employees: In the restaurant industry, understanding the minimum wage for tipped employees is crucial. In North Carolina, the minimum wage for these employees is set at $2.13 per hour. This rate applies as long as the employee consistently earns more than $20 per month in tips. However, business owners must meticulously track and record all tips received, as these records play a pivotal role in calculating the tip credit against the minimum wage obligations.

  • Subminimum Wage Considerations:

    • Employees with Disabilities: Employers can pay a subminimum wage to employees with disabilities, typically not less than 50% of the standard minimum wage. This is permissible only with a certificate obtained from the North Carolina Wage and Hour Bureau.

    • Apprentices and Learners: These groups are eligible for a subminimum wage rate, which cannot be less than 90% of the standard minimum wage. This provision supports on-the-job training and skill development.

  • Exemptions from Minimum Wage and Overtime Requirements: Some employees are exempt from the minimum wage, overtime, and record-keeping requirements. These categories include executive, administrative, professional, outside salesmen, and computer employees, but they must meet the criteria established under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

  • Other Exemptions: North Carolina law also excludes certain worker categories such as agricultural laborers, domestic workers, employees of summer camps, and certain seafood processing employees from its minimum wage and overtime requirements.

  • Overtime Only Exemptions: Specific categories like drivers, taxicab drivers, seamen, and railroad employees are only exempt from the overtime requirements.

It’s essential to note that North Carolina does not have a prevailing wage law—furthermore, no state laws mandating meal or rest breaks for individuals 16 years and older. Regarding benefits like paid vacation, sick leave, or holiday leave, while there’s no state mandate, if an employer chooses to provide these benefits, they must adhere to their established policy or employment contract terms.

North Carolina Minimum Wage & Labor Law Posters

Understanding the state and federal workplace poster requirements is essential for every business in North Carolina. The North Carolina Department of Labor (NCDOL) mandates all businesses to visibly display two key posters: the Wage and Hour Notice to Employees and the OSH Notice to Employees. 

These posters, available at no cost, are vital to your compliance toolkit. They provide your team with essential information on various laws, such as occupational safety and health regulations, wage and hour laws, and employment discrimination laws.

But it doesn’t stop there. 

Depending on your specific business circumstances, you might also need to display additional notices as required by other state and federal agencies. These notices keep employees informed about various workplace laws and ensure that your business adheres to the full spectrum of legal obligations. By staying informed and compliant, you safeguard your business against potential legal issues and foster a transparent, law-abiding work environment.

Considerations for Business Strategy in Light of Minimum Wage Stability

Budgeting and Financial Planning

First and foremost, evaluate your budget and financial forecasts. Even without a minimum wage hike in North Carolina, understanding how a potential increase could impact your expenses is crucial. This foresight aids in preparing for any future changes in wage policies.

Staffing and Operational Efficiency

Review your current staffing levels. An important consideration is whether you can maintain operational efficiency without increasing labor costs, which could become necessary if the minimum wage rises in the future.

Pricing Strategies for Sustained Profitability

Another vital aspect is your pricing strategy. It might need recalibration to balance profitability and higher wage expenses should there be changes in minimum wage legislation.

Maximizing Employee Potential

Investing in employee training and productivity can significantly enhance the value of your workforce. This approach is crucial for getting the most out of your team, especially in a competitive labor market.

Legal Compliance and Risk Management

Lastly, ensure your business adheres to all current and future minimum wage laws and regulations. This compliance is not just about avoiding legal penalties; it’s also about maintaining your business’s reputation and trust with your employees and customers.

Implications for Restaurant Owners

While there is no minimum wage hike in North Carolina this year, understanding its impact on restaurant operations remains essential. Here are some key points to consider:

1. Labor Costs and Budgeting: The steady minimum wage allows for consistent budgeting and forecasting. Restaurant owners can plan their labor costs more effectively without adjusting for a wage hike.

2. Competitive Hiring: With the minimum wage in North Carolina remaining unchanged, restaurants might need to offer competitive benefits or incentives to attract and retain employees, especially in a competitive job market.

3. Price Strategy: Stability in labor costs means that restaurants can maintain or strategically adjust their pricing without the pressure of increased wages.

4. Employee Morale and Turnover: Even without a wage increase, focusing on employee satisfaction through other means can be beneficial. This might include flexible scheduling, staff meals, or growth opportunities within the business.

5. Compliance and Legal Considerations: It’s vital to stay informed about the minimum wage laws to ensure compliance. This includes understanding both state and federal wage requirements, as they can differ.

6. Future Planning: While the minimum wage remains unchanged for now, restaurant owners should stay informed about potential future changes. This foresight allows for proactive business planning.

How Can I Prepare My Business for Future Minimum Wage Increases?

Even though there's no immediate hike in the minimum wage in North Carolina, being prepared for potential future increases is a wise business move. Let's explore effective strategies to ensure your restaurant remains competitive and profitable.

1. Financial Forecasting and Budgeting:

  • Analyzing Current Finances: Begin with a comprehensive review of your current financial health. Examine your expenses, income, and profit margins in detail to establish a baseline for future planning.

  • Forecasting Impact: Consider different scenarios where labor costs rise. Estimate how increments of 10%, 20%, or 30% in wages might affect your profitability. This foresight will aid in creating a resilient financial strategy.

2. Improving Operational Efficiency:

3. Investing in Employees:

  • Skill Enhancement: Allocate resources for staff training. Enhanced skills lead to greater efficiency and the ability to take on diverse roles.

  • Employee Retention: Focus on retaining your top talent. Remember, the cost of high staff turnover often outweighs the expense of higher wages.

4. Menu and Pricing Strategy:

  • Menu Optimization: Regularly assess your menu for profitability. Shift focus to dishes with higher margins and consider discontinuing less profitable items.

  • Dynamic Pricing: Implement gradual price adjustments to balance increased costs and communicate these changes transparently to your customers.

5. Diversifying Revenue Streams:

  • Exploring New Services: Adding services like catering or delivery can open up additional revenue channels.

  • Partnerships and Innovation: Collaborate with local businesses and participate in community events to enhance visibility and attract more customers.

6. Engaging with Customers and Community:

  • Customer Insights: Pay close attention to customer feedback to better understand their preferences and expectations.

  • Community Engagement: Active involvement in local community activities can foster goodwill and attract more patrons to your establishment.

7. Building Cash Reserves:

  • Emergency Fund: Set aside funds to build a financial safety net against sudden wage increases.

  • Exploring Financing Options: If needed, look into loans or investments to help your business smoothly transition during periods of wage adjustments.

Being proactive and adaptable is key to navigating the complexities of minimum wage changes. By continually reassessing and adjusting your business strategies, you can effectively manage potential wage increases while ensuring the sustainability and growth of your restaurant.


Understanding North Carolina minimum wage regulations is vital for business owners, especially those in the restaurant industry. Keeping track of changes in minimum wage rates, exemptions, and their implications can help you make informed decisions, stay compliant, and effectively manage your business's finances. 

As you navigate these challenges, remember that technology, like Chowbus POS, can be a valuable tool to optimize operations and adapt to changing labor cost dynamics.

Book a free demo or consultation for Chowbus POS today to discover how our restaurant technology and point-of-sale systems can help you manage costs efficiently and enhance your overall business performance.

Frequently Asked Questions About North Carolina Minimum Wage

Dive into our comprehensive FAQ section to gain insights and clarity on North Carolina's minimum wage policies, including current rates, living wage considerations, and comparisons with other states.

Is the Minimum Wage in North Carolina $15/Hour?

No, the minimum wage in North Carolina is not $15 per hour. As of 2024, it remains at $7.25 per hour, aligning with the federal minimum wage. For tipped employees, the minimum wage is $2.13 per hour, provided their tips bring them up to the standard minimum wage.

What is North Carolina's Minimum Wage for 2023?

In 2023, North Carolina's minimum wage was set at $7.25 per hour, and it continued at this rate into 2024. This amount was in line with the Federal Minimum Wage.

Why is NC Not Raising the Minimum Wage?

Efforts to increase it, including proposals for a $15 per hour wage, have faced challenges in the state legislature, particularly from Republican leadership. While some argue for the economic benefits of a higher minimum wage, others express concerns about the impact on small businesses.

A bill (Senate Bill 440) proposing to increase the minimum wage to $15 was introduced in the 2023-2024 legislative session but has not been passed. For the minimum wage to increase, either the federal government would need to raise the federal minimum wage, or state lawmakers in North Carolina would need to enact an increase.

What is a Living Wage in NC?

A living wage in North Carolina varies depending on household composition. For a single adult with no children, it’s $16.83 per hour. This amount increases with the number of children; for one child, it’s $35.73 per hour; for two children, it’s $46.40 per hour; and for three children, it reaches $61.00 per hour. 

These figures are calculated based on the assumption of a full-time work schedule (2080 hours per year) and are intended to cover basic needs like food, housing, and healthcare.

What States Still Have 7.25 Minimum Wage?

As of 2024, the states still maintaining the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour are Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

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