wages

The vast majority of U.S. workers haven't seen any real wage gains since the recession. But that's starting to change, at least for low-income workers.

This week, fast-food giant McDonald's announced it will pay workers $1 more than the local minimum wage.

It joins some of the nation's other largest employers, including Wal-Mart, Target and TJX, the parent company of Marshalls and TJ Maxx. All say they will be boosting pay to at least $9 per hour this year, and some will go to $10 next year.

For Wal-Mart alone, that's a pay raise for half a million Americans.

On Thursday, President Obama rolled out his plan for strengthening overtime pay protections for millions of workers. In his view, if more workers got fatter paychecks, they could spend more and stimulate the economy.

But if his critics are right, then employers would end up laying off workers to make up for the higher wage costs. And that would hurt the already painfully slow recovery.

Which scenario is right?