Competition for workers, minimum-wage increases, and pressure on corporations to contribute to society have all finally brought companies to give America's lowest-paid workers a boost.

Americans in the bottom quarter of the incomes scale were largely left out during the recession. Median income levels have stagnated over the last several years, and the country isn't adding as many jobs as some would have hoped. For the lowest rung of workers, it's getting a little bit brighter. The Wall Street Journal reports that full-time workers make roughly $13 an hour saw a 3.1% wage increase from a year earlier, which exceeds the growth rate for median earners making roughly $20 an hour for full-time work.

The gains at the bottom come alongside broader pay increases; in July, wages for all private-sector workers matched their strongest annual rate of growth in seven years.

The raises aren’t being quietly slipped into paychecks. Instead, large employers are setting a public example, putting pressure on competitors to follow suit and reaping ancillary benefits in the form of good will from employees, customers and investors.

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