Does the word that just popped into your head show up here? Find out:

14 February, 2013

The Minimum Wage Wager Looks Worth It

This week, President Obama proposed raising the minimum wage, causing many disdainful harrumph among the plutocracy's elephantine representatives in Congress. The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25/hour; in Washington State, it is $9.10, highest in the country. The state's bottom of the barrel, then, is 25.5% higher than it is for the US.
So-called Conservatives would argue that Washington's wage structure is a disincentive to employment, but the data don't bear that out. From 1990 until now, when Washington's minimum wage has risen most every year, the state's rate has gone up and down according to the same macro-economic forces that have affected the federal rate. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in the US was 7.8% in December, 2012. For Washington, it was 7.6%. Far from being 25.5% higher, it was lower. 

Seasonally Adjusted Unemployment Rate*

Now, let's compare two states, Washington with it's "high" minimum wage and Georgia, where the minimum wage is a paltry $5.15. This is 44% below Washington's and 35% below the federal minimum wage. Has having the lowest minimum wage led to Georgia businesses offering everyone a job? No, not even close. 

Where's the harm in a higher minimum wage?*

Georgia's unemployment rate is higher, and has exceeded that in Washington throughout the past few years of economic crisis. From 1992 to 2007, to be sure, Georgia's rate was lower (in April, 2003, the WA rate of 7.7% was half again as high as in GA), but there is no evidence to suggest that an increasing Washington minimum wage contributed to this.
In fact, lower unemployment in Washington during the Great Recession shows that a higher minimum wage does not put a halt to hiring. In fact, a minimum wage that approaches a living wage may contribute to resiliency, if you think about it. More income, particularly at the lower end of the income scale, allows more spending, largely local, that keeps the consumer economy running. Georgia's working poor are likely to be pumping 44% less into an ailing economy than Washington's.

* Data from US Bureau of Labor Statistics, charts generated on Google Public Data.

No comments:

Post a Comment