The very lowest salary an employer can legally pay a worker is the minimum wage. Some states have a higher local minimum wage than the one set by the federal government.
The first U.S. minimum wage was established in 1938 by Franklin D. Roosevelt, part of a plan to improve working conditions. It was 25 cents per hour, the equivalent of about $4.60 today. By 1968, the minimum wage had increased to $1.60, approximately $12.00 in 2020 dollars. The federal minimum wage, which is $7.20 in 2021, continues to protect workers, although many advocate for higher minimum wages in line with increased costs of rent, food, education, and other living expenses.