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Rhode Island Minimum Wage Hike Signed Into Law By Governor Lincoln Chafee

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June 21 (Reuters) - Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee has signed into law the state's first minimum wage hike since before the recession, lawmakers said on Thursday.

The legislation the minimum wage to $7.75 per hour from $7.40, about a 5 percent increase. The law, which the governor signed Wednesday night, goes into effect Jan. 1, 2013.

The last increase was in 2007, before the recession took hold and the state's unemployment rate rose to 11.0 percent, where it stood in May.

Rhode Island has gone the longest of all New England states without a minimum wage increase, legislators said.

Neighboring states Massachusetts and Connecticut have $8 and $8.25 minimum wage rates respectively, up from $7.50 and $7.65 for each state within the past five years.

Vermont's minimum wage is the highest in the region, at $8.46. Maine's rate is $7.50 and New Hampshire's is the lowest, at $7.25.

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