The national pay floor of $7.25 an hour hasn’t been adjusted for a decade, the longest it has ever gone unchanged. And with Washington policy makers polarized on the issue, there is little chance the level will be increased soon.

Meanwhile, 29 states representing about 60% of the workforce have set their minimum wage higher. Dozens of large employers—including Walmart Inc., McDonald’s Corp. and Inc. —have pledged to pay employees well more than $7.25 an hour, while the tight labor market is causing firms of all sizes to raise pay. And a handful of high-cost cities, such as Seattle and San Francisco, have a level at or above $15 an hour.

State of Wages

In the U.S., 21 states follow the federal minimum wage, while others have set rates as high $12 an hour, including some that will reach $15 an hour in the coming years.

As a result, a tiny share of Americans, just 0.28% of the 156 million civilian workers earned the federal minimum last year, according to the Labor Department. Most of those employees were younger than 25 years old.

That means the current level of the federal minimum wage appears to be having little economic impact. While it may help boost pay for some individuals, it is neither costing jobs nor lifting wages for most of the country.

Without action by Washington, the proportion of workers affected by the federal minimum is likely to keep shrinking as long as it remains at its current level, which appears probable. […]