Integrity Florida is disputing the claim rising minimum wages will stunt job growth. The group has released a study surveying wage policies across the country.
With both major parties setting their rhetorical sights on the widening gap between the rich and everyone else, policy arguments about minimum wage are sure to be a regular feature in political discussion. But Integrity Florida is trying to shake up conventional wisdom.
The group’s research director Ben Wilcox says, “The results of our state and city case studies do not prove that a higher minimum wage results in job growth, but the results provide no indication that a higher minimum wage is associated with job losses.”
These results complicate standard claims about the relationship between wages and employment. Many conservative politicians believe increasing pay at the lowest levels will pinch small business owners and they’ll be forced to lay-off workers. Meanwhile liberals say an increase in wages means an increase in disposable income and by extension greater revenue for businesses throughout the economy.
Instead, Integrity Florida says the numbers suggest something in middle—rising wages won’t kill jobs, but it’s not clear they create them either.
The study’s co-author Alan Stonecipher describes a central feature of the study—a comparison of average employment at the end of 2013 and the three most recent months on record.
“The baseline is the average number of jobs over the last three months of 2013 compared to the average number in March, April and May of this year,” Stonecipher says. “The results show that the number of jobs grew by 2.9 percent in states that had raised the minimum wage, compared with 2.6 percent in states where the minimum wage had not increased.”
That’s on average. So far as individual numbers, California and Washington, two states that raised wages, led the pack in job growth. But the top five is rounded out by Utah, Nevada, and Idaho—three states that didn’t.
One state, West Virginia, lost jobs after raising its minimum wage, but the authors say it’s an outlier. All 49 other states and the District of Columbia showed growth regardless of wage policies.
And Wilcox explains the findings could be important for Floridians in particular.
“In Florida a proposed constitutional amendment has been filed that if it is on the ballot and wins approval in 2016, would raise the state’s minimum wage to 10 dollars an hour,” Wilcox says.
But that initiative has a long way to go before it makes it to the ballot. Of the more than 680,000 signatures necessary by February 1, it has only about 70,000.