Orange County Living Wage Rises to $15.85 An Hour In 2022

Orange County’s newly updated 2022 living wage for hourly workers is $15.85 an hour, or $14.35 for employers who pay at least half of employees’ health insurance costs. Orange County Living Wage (OCLW) adjusts the living wage annually to keep pace with rising rents.

OCLW determines its living wage by using the widely accepted Universal Living Wage Formula based on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) standard that no more than 30% of a person’s gross income should be devoted to housing. To calculate the wage, OCLW uses the average cost of a one-bed apartment in a four-county area including Alamance, Chatham, Durham and Orange counties.

After the longest period in history without a federal wage increase, North Carolina’s minimum wage is the same as the national minimum wage of $7.25. This wage is worth 21% less than in 2009, when the wage was last increased. The District of Columbia and 29 states have higher minimum wages than the $7.25 required for non-tipped workers. With the new year, 21 states have announced additional wage increases that will take effect in 2022.

Since Orange County Living Wage’s voluntary employer certification program began in 2015, nearly 300 employers have certified as paying all full- and part-time employees the living wage. The 218 employers on OCLW’s current roster employ more than 9500 employees in Orange County. In this past year of unprecedented health and financial challenges, 34 new employers were recognized for their commitment to pay a living wage.

“The pandemic has shined the spotlight on workers and wages, and the essential services that thousands of employees in Orange County provide day in and day out,” says OCLW Director Susan Romaine. “A $15.85 hourly wage reflects the minimum wage necessary for workers to live close enough to our county to provide essential services like staffing our hospitals, schools, police and fire departments, grocery stores, pharmacies, and more. We applaud our 218 certified living wage employers for their leadership in the community and priorities in the workplace, now more than ever.”

When a business or organization certifies as a living wage employer, OCLW calculates the total amount they raised wages to meet the living wage threshold. Since 2015, that total is $1.85 million, with over $900,000 from 2021 wage increases alone, money that is often spent in Orange County.

Learn more about Orange County Living Wage, view postings on the living wage jobs board, or apply to become a certified living wage employer at