The tightening labor market is putting pressure on employers across the country to pay more for hourly help.

And even though most landscape industry markets already pay a premium for reliable hourly employees, they will have to pay more as gradual wage hikes continue in areas like California and New York where it’s been approved up to $15 per hour.

Raising the minimum wage is controversial, especially in a recovering economy.

Looking at small businesses overall, 40 percent say they already pay entry-level employees “far above” the required minimum wages in their areas of operation, while 38 percent pay “slightly above” the minimum wage. Just 14 percent are paying the state or local minimums and only 9 percent are paying the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, according to a newly released Manta study.

Like those in more crowded landscape industry markets, many small business owners feel paying above minimum wage is vital to staying competitive.

While nearly 30 percent of small business owners say a minimum-wage increase would have no impact on their operations, the requirement to pay employees more would force many businesses to make some changes. Nearly 40 percent of small businesses surveyed by Manta say they would have to charge more for their services, 33 percent would need to reduce staffing levels, 27 percent would need to cut employee hours, 25 percent would be unable to expand their businesses or hire more employees and 9 percent would need to cut their hours of operation.

Navigating the changes will no doubt impact landscape business owners as they hold off on hiring or growth while they see how cash flow shakes out. Being more productive and learning to get more done with fewer employees will continue to be a trend.