How Seattle provides a practical example of minimum wages leading to losses in income and employment
The Seattle Minimum Wage Study, a study supported and funded in part by the Seattle city government, is out with a new NBER paperevaluating Seattle’s minimum wage increase to $13 an hour and it finds significant disemployment effects that on net reduce the incomes of minimum wage workers. I farm this one out to Jonathan Meer on FB.
This is the official study that was commissioned several years ago by the city of Seattle to study the impacts of raising the minimum wage, in a move that I applauded at the time as an honest and transparent attempt towards self-examination of a bold policy. It is the first study of a very high city-level minimum wage, with administrative data that has much more detail than is usually available. The first wave (examining the increase to $11/hr) last year was a mixed bag, with fairly imprecise estimates.
These findings, examining another year of data and including the increase to $13/hr, are unequivocal: the policy is an unmitigated disaster. The main findings:
– The numbers of hours worked by low-wage workers fell by *3.5 million hours per quarter*. This was reflected both in thousands of job losses and reductions in hours worked by those who retained their jobs.
– The losses were so dramatic that this increase “reduced income paid to low-wage employees of single-location Seattle businesses by roughly $120 million on an annual basis.” On average, low-wage workers *lost* $125 per month. The minimum wage has always been a lousy income transfer program, but at this level you’d come out ahead just setting a hundred million dollars a year on fire. And that’s before we get into who kept vs lost their jobs.
– Estimates of the response of labor demand are substantially higher than much of the previous research, which may have been expected given how much higher (and how localized) this minimum wage is relative to previously-studied ones.
– The impacts took some time to be reflected in the level of employment, as predicted by Meer and West (2016).
– The authors are able to replicate the results of other papers that find no impact on the restaurant industry with their own data by imposing the same limitations that other researchers have faced. This shows that those papers’ findings were likely driven by their data limitations. This is an important thing to remember as you see knee-jerk responses coming from the usual corners.
– You may also hear that the construction of the comparison group was flawed somehow, and that’s driving the results. I believe that the research team did as good of a job as possible, trying several approaches and presenting all of their findings extensively. There is no cherry-picking here. But more importantly, without getting too deep into the econometric weeds, my sense is that, given the evolution of the Seattle economy over the past two years, these results – if anything – *understate* the extent of the job losses.
This paper not only makes numerous valuable contributions to the economics literature, but should give serious pause to minimum wage advocates. Of course, that’s not what’s happening, to the extent that the mayor of Seattle commissioned *another* study, by an advocacy group at Berkeley whose previous work on the minimum wage is so consistently one-sided that you can set your watch by it, that unsurprisingly finds no effect. They deliberately timed its release for several days before this paper came out, and I find that whole affair abhorrent. Seattle politicians are so unwilling to accept reality that they’ll undermine their own researchers and waste taxpayer dollars on what is barely a cut above propaganda.
I don’t envy the backlash this team is going to face for daring to present results that will be seen as heresy. I know that so many people just desperately want to believe that the minimum wage is a free lunch. It’s not. These job losses will only get worse as the minimum wage climbs higher, and this team is working on linking to demographic data to examine who the losers from this policy are. I fully expect that these losses are borne most heavily by low-income and minority households.
Perhaps it’s time for Bernie Sanders to put his money where his mouth is and pay his staffers a “living wage”—and the overtime they should be entitled to.
For all is rhetoric, it may turn out that socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders is just another hypocritical politician who takes money from big corporations, invests in Wall Street and, reportedly, pays his workers “poverty wages” (and NO overtime)—despite the fact that they’re unionized.
Back in March, to show his “pro-union” bonafides, Bernie Sanders made headlines when he encouraged his staffers to unionize with the United Food & Commercial Workers, turning his campaign into the first-ever unionized presidential campaign.
However, as often happens when activists who campaign to dictate standards upon others actually have to live under those standards, things do not always go as planned.
On Thursday, the same day that the House of Representatives passed a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour—which Sanders has long advocated for—the Washington Post ran an article that shed some light on a wage dispute that is currently going on within his campaign.
Apparently, Sanders’ campaign workers are lashing out at campaign management regarding the low wages that they are receiving.
“I am struggling financially to do my job, and in my state, we’ve already had 4 people quit in the past 4 weeks because of financial struggles,” one field organizer reportedly wrote on a message board to Sanders’ campaign manager Faiz Shakir.
Another employee wrote his co-workers “shouldn’t have to get payday loans to sustain themselves.”
Then, there was this interesting statement:
The draft letter estimated that field organizers were working 60 hours per week at minimum, dropping their average hourly pay to less than $13. [Emphasis added.]
As field organizers are paid an annual salary of $36,000 under their new union contract, things would be fine—if they are only working 40 hours per week.
However, it appears they are not.
If they are truly working 60 hours per week (or 3,000 hours per year), on a salary of $36,000, they are only making $12 per hour, instead of the $17.30 they should be making on a standard 40-hour week, 2,080-hours per work year.
Obviously, $12 per hour is far less than the $15 Bernie Sanders claims to support.
However, it’s worse than that.
Based on the article, it also appears that Sanders is not paying overtime.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938, employees who are not exempted from the law are entitled to time and one half pay for every hour worked after 40 hours in a given workweek.[Some states (and, more importantly, some union contracts) actually mandate time and one half after eight hours.]
If the Sanders campaign workers are not exempt from the FLSA and are entitled to overtime, they should be making nearly $26 per hour for every hour worked over 40.
Following the 2016 election, the DNC was sued by former field organizers who alleged that the “the state party defendants conspired with one another and with Defendant DNC to unlawfully designate Plaintiffs, and those similarly situated, as exempt employees under the FLSA and applicable state wage statutes, thereby denying Plaintiffs full and appropriate compensation.”
Unfortunately for the DNC’s field organizers, the suit was dismissed in 2018.
In dismissing the overtime suit, according to this summary, “the Court relied on an often-overlooked defense to the Fair Labor Standard Act (“FLSA”) – namely, that the FLSA only covers employees engaged in interstate commerce as opposed to employees engaged in purely local activities. [Emphasis added.]”
That case involved multiple state parties (as well as the DNC)–and not a singular candidate.
In the case of Bernie Sanders, however, a court could determine his campaign to be a singular employer…and, if so, it is definitelyoperating across state lines (interstate commerce).
It is also possible that the new union contract may aid a court in establishing that employees are not exempted from the FLSA. However, neither the campaign, nor the UFCW has released the contract to the public.
Perhaps it’s time for Bernie Sanders to, quite literally, put his money where his mouth is.
by Ali Meyer • Washington Free Beacon
California is projected to have a $15 statewide minimum wage by 2022. Economists project this will lead to a loss of 400,000 jobs, according to a report from the Employment Policies Institute.
Currently, the federal minimum wage is $7.25. California’s is $10.50, which is one of the highest minimum wages in the United States. California’s intent to raise it to $15 by 2022 will create the largest gap between a state minimum wage and the federal wage in U.S. history.
“One might argue that a higher minimum wage is justified in California because of its relatively high cost of living compared to the typical state,” the report says. “On the other hand, one might be concerned about whether the higher minimum wage in California causes job loss for low skilled workers, and whether the effects differ in the cities where the cost of living and wages are relatively high as compared to rural areas or less expensive cities.”
California has consistently raised the minimum wage since 2001, even higher than what was mandated by federal law. The study finds that this increase has led to a decline in employment.
By Erielle Davidson • The Federalist
Harvard Business School recently released a working paper titled “Survival of the Fittest: The Impact of the Minimum Wage on Firm Exit,” discussing the effects of minimum wage policies on companies’ survival. For those with any shred of economic understanding, the results were predictably dismal.
The paper focused specifically upon the restaurant industry in San Francisco, using data from the review platform Yelp to track the activity and performance of individual restaurants. Researchers Dara Lee Luca and Michael Luca discovered that a $1 increase in the minimum wage leads to approximately a 4 to 10 percent increase in the likelihood of any given restaurant exiting the industry entirely. In economic terms, minimum wage hikes quicken a restaurant’s “shutdown” point. Continue reading
by Bill McMorris • Washington Free Beacon
Restaurants in the nation’s capital experienced their worst hiring period in 15 years, fueling speculation that wage hikes are reducing employment opportunities.
Employment in the food service industry fell in Washington, D.C. even as it continued to increase in the region. Restaurants shed 1,400 jobs in the first six months of 2016, a three percent decrease and the largest loss of jobs since the 2001 recession, according to an analysis from American Enterprise Institute scholar Mark Perry.
The steep drop was isolated to D.C. Neighboring suburbs in Virginia and Maryland added nearly 3,000 jobs over the same period, a 1.6 percent increase in hiring. Continue reading
37 percent of businesses say they would increase the price of goods
Thirty percent of businesses said they would eliminate jobs if the minimum wage were increased to $15 an hour, according to a survey from Express Employment Professionals.
The survey asked 390 businesses in the United States and Canada what effect the increase in the minimum wage would have on their operations.
Thirty-seven percent of businesses said they would increase the price of goods, 30 percent of businesses said they would eliminate positions, and 20 percent of businesses said they would increase other wages in the company.
A majority of the businesses surveyed, 82 percent, said they do not pay the current minimum wage for some positions while 18 percent of respondents said they do.
“A $15 minimum wage has certainly become a political hot topic,” said Bob Funk, CEO of Express Employment Professionals. “There’s no doubt it makes for a good talking point, but the real question is whether it makes good economic sense.”
“While some workers will see a raise, which is good news, this survey shows that there are clear negative consequences for raising the wage to $15,” said Funk, who was also a former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. “Policymakers should always keep in mind the unintended consequences of their actions.”
by Larry Elder • Townhall
Fourteen to one, in favor.
That was the Los Angeles City Council vote to raise, over the next five years, the city’s minimum wage from $9 an hour to $15. Of course, as Investor’s Business Daily tells us, the $15 per hour really is closer to $20.
Investor’s Business Daily says: “Once all the nonwage costs are added, including payroll taxes, paid sick leave and the big one — ObamaCare’s employer mandate — minimum compensation for a full-time worker could rise as high as $19.28 an hour by 2020, an IBD analysis finds. That would amount to a jump of $10.67, or 124 percent, since June 2014.” Continue reading
by Thomas Sowell • Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
While we talk about democracy and equal rights, we seem increasingly to let both private and government decisions be determined by mob rule. There is nothing democratic about mob rule. It means that some people’s votes are to be overruled by other people’s disruptions, harassments and threats.
The latest examples are the mobs in the streets in cities across the country, demanding that employers pay a minimum wage of $15 an hour, or else that the government makes them do so by law. Some of the more gullible observers think the issue is whether what some people are making now is “a living wage.” This misconstrues the whole point of hiring someone to do work. Those who are being hired are paid for the value of the work they do.
If their work is really worth more than what their employer is paying them, all they have to do is quit and go work for some other employer, who will pay them what their work is really worth. If they can’t find any other employer who will pay them more, then what makes them think their work is worth more?
As for a “living wage,” the employer is not hiring people in order to acquire dependents and become their meal ticket. He is hiring them for what they produce. Continue reading
The article below discusses the push in Illinois to raise the minimum wage to $10 and hour. While we cannot endorse each point made in the article, it does a good job of describing the absurdity of solving current job growth and economic growth problems by focusing on the minimum wage. In North Dakota where there is an economic and energy boom, there is rapid economic growth and full employment. Kids working at McDonalds can earn up to $15 an hour. This was done not be raising the minimum wage, but instead, by the free-market creating jobs and thus, driving wages higher through natural natural means. The article makes some excellent points. Enjoy!
Beyond the minimum wage
Gov. Pat Quinn wants to raise the minimum wage in Illinois to at least $10 an hour. Some of the Republican challengers to Quinn have danced clumsily around the issue. Our concern is that this narrow focus on a small shift in wages for a small number of workers misses the real point of debate.
Illinois is desperate for jobs of all kinds. This state has the fourth highest unemployment rate in the nation and, according to a recent, credible survey, the worst prospects for job growth. Unemployment is significantly higher than the state average in communities such as Rockford, Kankakee, Decatur and Danville. It is desperately high in some of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. Continue reading
Words seem to carry far more weight than facts among those liberals who argue as if rent control laws actually control rents and gun control laws actually control guns.
It does no good to point out to them that the two American cities where rent control laws have existed longest and strongest — New York and San Francisco — are also the two cities with the highest average rents.
Nor does it make a dent on them when you point out evidence, from both sides of the Atlantic, that tightening gun control laws does not reduce gun crimes, including murder. It is not uncommon for gun crimes to rise when gun control laws are tightened. Apparently armed criminals prefer unarmed victims. Continue reading
As Barack Obama scrambles to eviscerate key sections of his own signature health care law, he and other Democrats are trying to shift voters’ focus to another issue — income inequality.
Unfortunately, the solutions they advocate are pitifully inadequate or painfully perverse.
Start with the minimum wage, which some Democrats see as an election-winning wedge issue in 2014.
True, raising the minimum wage polls well. But does anybody really care much about it? Few minimum-wage earners are heads of households; many more are teenagers earning spare cash. Continue reading
by George F. Will
Liberals’ love of recycling extends to their ideas, one of which illustrates the miniaturization of Barack Obama’s presidency. He fervently favors a minor measure that would have mostly small, mostly injurious effects on a small number of people. Nevertheless, raising the minimum hourly wage for the 23rd time since 1938, from today’s $7.25 to $10.10, is a nifty idea, if:
If government is good at setting prices. Government — subsidizer of Solyndra, operator of the ethanol program, creator of HealthCare.gov — uses minimum-wage laws to set the price for the labor of workers who are apt to add only small value to the economy. Continue reading
With Democrats cratering in the polls over their collapsing health care law, they are trying to pivot to the only part of their policy agenda that still enjoys broad public support: the minimum wage. But their advocacy and its popularity rest on the incorrect belief that a significant number of families live on the minimum wage. Instead, the primary impact would be to exacerbate a crisis of youth unemployment spurred largely by the last minimum wage increase.
A recent analysis by Ben Gitis of the American Action Forum found that just 1.9 percent of all wage and salary earners make the minimum wage or less. Just 0.3 percent of people in families with incomes below the poverty line make the minimum wage or less — and just 1.5 percent make less than $10.10, the level that Democrats have suggested for the next hike. Applying the most recent academic research, Gitis also found that such an increase would reduce employment by more than two million jobs. Continue reading
If you offer people something that is too good to be true, you will always find takers. Ask Bernie Madoff. Or ask Barack Obama. He recently proposed an increase in the minimum wage — an idea that suits the natural predilections of many people enough to distract them from the unsentimental and unwelcome logic of economics.
One poll found that 63 percent of Americans favor raising the federal floor from the current $7.25 to $10.10, as the president recommends doing over two years. The reasons are obvious. Wages have stagnated, low-income Americans are getting a smaller share of national income and many working people are stuck in poverty despite their best efforts. A higher minimum wage is the obvious solution.
Obvious, but wrong. The proposal rests on the assumption that the government can decree the price of a commodity — in this case, labor — in defiance of the dictates of the market, without ill effects. But that view requires a heroic suspension of disbelief. Continue reading