A panel that Mayor Rahm Emanuel charged with researching Chicago’s minimum wage reported back Monday with this recommendation: raise it to $13 an hour by 2018.

The Minimum Wage Working Group contends that the proposed increase — to be phased in over four years — would increase earnings for about 410,000 Chicagoans; inject nearly $800 million into Chicago’s economy; and better align earnings with the cost of living adjusted for inflation.

“Mayor Emanuel met with the Working Group at their final meeting this afternoon and was impressed by the thoroughness of their work,” Kelley Quinn, a mayoral spokeswoman, said in a statement Monday night. “He fully supports the group’s balanced proposal.”

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The increase to $13 would reflect the high cost of living in Chicago compared with the rest of Illinois, according to the panel’s report. It would increase the earnings for 31 percent of Chicago workers. 

The four-year time frame would allow business owners time to adjust, the panel reported. It also concluded that the wage increase could raise the cost of food, health care, retail and hospitality by up to 2 percent.

The minimum wage currently is $7.25 an hour at the federal level and $8.25 in Illinois. The panel suggested that a minimum wage increase ordinance shouldn’t be passed in Chicago before the Illinois Legislature acts on a statewide minimum wage increase.

Gov. Pat Quinn has called for raising the Illinois minimum wage. The issue will go before voters in the form of a nonbinding referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot. 

The proposal also recommends that a Chicago ordinance include an exemption for nonprofit programs that employ people under 25 to provide them with training, experience and other support.

The panel — co-chaired by South Side Ald. Will Burns (4th) and by John Bouman, president of the Sargent Shriver Center on Poverty Law — included representatives from businesses opposed to the idea as well as labor officials who champion an increase.

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