GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — In 2022, 25 states will raise their minimum wage or have already increased it. North Carolina is not on that list.

North Carolina established the minimum wage of $7.25 back in 2009, but that number has not changed since, and some experts say businesses have to be so competitive among staffing shortages right now that wages are increasing whether or not there is a mandate.

Tom Kies is the president of the Carteret County Chamber of Commerce. He said businesses really have no choice but to start raising their wages independently in order to keep safe in a shrinking labor market.

“I think that the market…to some degrees is correcting itself as far as wages go. Since we’ve seen staffing shortages, right across the board on almost everything, we’re finding that a lot of our businesses are sweetening the pot,” Kies said. “The workers are kind of setting the pace on this. So it’s not going to be the government. I don’t believe it’s going to be the market.”

Mark Sutherland, the executive director of Jacksonville Onslow Economic Development, said minimum wage is virtually irrelevant in such a competitive job market.

“When we see a Taco Bell starting at $18, and we have high school students starting a food line at $15, I think conversations about minimum wage are passed at this point,” Sutherland said.

Sutherland said wages have been on the rise in Onslow County since 2020.

“That means…more quality of life, more housing options, more saving for college…but there’s never really a good news story that goes along with low wages,” Sutherland said.

Kies said the economy in Carteret County has continued to hit new records since 2020, even with the pandemic, so the business is there, but companies must continue to find ways to keep themselves staffed.