Aetna is boosting the pay for its lowest-earning employees, joining companies like Starbucks and Gap in raising wages as the growing U.S. economy leads to a tighter job market.
About 5,700 employees in areas such as customer service and billing will get a minimum of $16 an hour starting in April, said spokeswoman Cynthia Michener. The company also plans to cover more health care costs for 7,000 workers beginning next year, she said.
Aetna said it appeared that none of the workers set to benefit, who include part-timers, are currently making the minimum wage in their localities.
The move is a sign that pressure is growing on employers to increase wages as the labor market gets more active. The U.S. jobless rate fell to 5.6 percent in December, the lowest level since June 2008, though wages dropped 0.2 percent from the previous month. Earnings increased 1.7 percent from a year earlier.
“We are making a significant investment in our employees intended to increase their financial security,” Michener said. “As health care moves to a consumer industry, Aetna is investing in the employees who interact with our customers every day.”
Starbucks said in October that it would give workers a raise this month in all U.S. markets. Gap announced plans almost a year ago to boost hourly pay.
The minimum wage rose in almost half of the states Jan. 1. Attempts at a nationwide boost have languished in Congress.