JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork)Minimum wage just went up to $12 an hour in New Jersey.

And as CBS2’s Nick Caloway reported Friday, it will keep increasing over the next three years.

Some of the Garden State’s lowest-paid workers got a raise to begin the new year. It’s part of a deal signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in 2019 to increase the minimum wage each year. It will increase to $13 an hour in 2022, $14 in 2023, and $15 in 2024.

MORENew York, New Jersey Raising Minimum Wage In New Year

The pay raise comes as welcome news for many low-wage workers, but critics say the economic downturn created by the coronavirus pandemic should have led state officials to hit the pause button on minimum wage increases, for now.

The governor disagrees.

“We need more federal help to help us help our small businesses, and we need to let the minimum wage continue to go on its march toward $15. We have far too many people in our state living below the poverty line, and so that’s another big step,” Murphy said.

MORE FROM CBS NEW YORK

Some skeptics of an eventual $15 minimum wage fear it could lead to job losses, but Dr. Yana Rodgers, an economist at Rutgers University, said that won’t be the case.

“What we call a disemployment effect just isn’t there. They’re very small or zero and they’re not statistically significant. So when business groups raise concerns that there will be massive job losses from raising the minimum wage, that does not happen,” Rodgers said.

But for small business owners coming off a brutal year, those extra costs are real.

“Well, it’s a little tough to swallow right now,” said Jeanne Cretella, owner of Liberty House Restaurant in Jersey City.

Cretella, who also owns a handful other restaurants across the state, said since cash wages for tipped employees are also increasing, her added expenses could top $250,000.

“For many, it will be the straw that broke the camel’s back. And, unfortunately, many restaurants that are just trying to survive will no longer be able to hold on,” Cretella said.

She said it will end up hurting many hourly workers, because some businesses will have to cut hours or let people go.

In New York, the minimum hourly wage went up to $12.50 on Friday. It will increase to $14 an hour on Long Island and in Westchester County.

In the city, the minimum wage remains at $15 per hour.

CBS2’s Nick Caloway contributed to this report

CBSNewYork Team