Minimum wage increases went into effect in 20 states today, according to the New York Times. The increases range from a few pennies to $1.25 more an hour. Washington state has the highest wage at $9.47. In other states, like Massachusetts, the wage increase is staggered and will reach $11/hour by 2017. The new wage laws will cover approximately 60% of the U.S. workforce. The federal minimum wage, $7.25, has not been raised since 2007.

The Wall Street Journal also reports on new labor-related laws that will go into effect this year. Apart from minimum wage increase, new laws in Illinois, Maryland, and New Jersey will restrict employers’ use of criminal background checks when hiring new employees.

The Huffington Post reviews 2014 for organized labor. The piece by David Macaray says last year was “ho-hum” with some “notable exceptions,” including the fast food workers’ protests, Thomas Perez’s first year as Secretary of Labor, and the continuing struggles for teachers’ unions.

The New York Times reports that the number of applications for unemployment insurance rose  by 17,000 last week. The overall number of applications remains low, however, suggesting that economic growth will continue. For the past few months, the number of unemployment applications has been less than 300,000. The Boston Globe reports that the labor force in Massachusetts grew by 80,500 workers in 2014, while the national economy added 321,000 jobs last November.