On June 13, Los Angeles became the latest city to boost its minimum wage. Mayor Eric Garcetti signed a law raising the minimum wage in the city from $9 an hour to $15 an hour by 2020.
According to Reuters, incremental increases begin in July 2016, when the wage moves to $10.50 an hour. Small businesses get an extra year to meet the new requirement, which applies to every business that employs more than 25 workers.
Now it’s time for the usual suspects — Fox News, right-wing radio, conservative blogs, etc. — to start screaming that this is going to cause an increase in unemployment. It’s like an automatic reaction every time there is mention of an increase in the minimum wage. It doesn’t matter that the claim has never proven to be true. But then, when did the truth ever matter to the right?
Los Angeles joins Seattle, Oakland and San Francisco in the move to the $15 minimum wage. Let’s take a look at how those cities are faring.
Seattle’s unemployment is lower than the state average.
The right-wing blogosphere was abuzz in the winter, because of what was supposedly a large number of restaurant closures in Seattle, ahead of that city’s first incremental step to a $15 minimum wage. Of course, the information that they offered was cherry picked to make their case, and ignored what was actually going on.
First of all, conservatives made it look like Seattle’s minimum wage was jumping to $15 literally overnight, when the first step of the increase went into effect on April 1. It didn’t. It went to $11. In the case of restaurants, owners are permitted to make up that amount through a combination of an hourly wage, tips, and employer contributions to employee health insurance.
Also, to make their case, righties had to ignore that not a single restaurant owner gave the higher minimum wage as a reason for closing their business. And they had to pretend not to notice that some of the closures were due to planned downsizing or relocation of the business. One Seattle restaurateur actually closed one eatery in order to open two new ones.
The first bit of unemployment data for Seattle since the minimum wage increase is out, and it further undercuts conservative arguments about the effects of minimum wage increases on employment. As of April 30, the unemployment rate in Seattle stood at 3.0 percent. That was down from 3.8 percent at the beginning of the year, and down from 3.6 percent in March, just before the minimum wage increase went into effect. By comparison, the state’s overall unemployment rate stood at 5.5 percent in April, down from 5.9 percent. So, following the minimum wage increase, Seattle’s unemployment rate not only declined, it declined by more than the state as a whole.
In California, similar results.
San Francisco’s minimum wage increased to $12.25 an hour on May 1. While there is no data yet on any changes in unemployment since the increase, it is obvious that the increase didn’t cause many employers to shut their doors in preparation for it. Unemployment in the city has been on the decline for months. San Francisco’s old minimum wage of $11 an hour was higher than California’s minimum wage of $9, yet the city’s unemployment rate has been lower than that of the state for years.
Across the bay, in Oakland, where the minimum wage increased to $12.25 on March 2, there has been no catastrophic increase in the unemployment rate. Unemployment in Oakland stood at 5.5 percent in April, down from 6.1 percent in February, just before the new minimum wage went into effect. And, like San Francisco, the unemployment rate in Oakland is lower than that of the state as a whole.
Why won’t conservatives accept these facts?
There may be no subject that gets a conservative as worked up, without any facts to support their argument, as does the minimum wage debate. Over the past few years I have had many amazing debates with right wingers on this subject. One, after being shown information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, told me that the numbers I showed him didn’t prove that a higher minimum wage decreased unemployment. That’s ok, because that wasn’t what I was trying to show him to begin with. I asked him for proof that a higher minimum wage increased unemployment, which was his original claim. In response, he told me a story. Not a true story, but a hypothetical situation that he made up. Why did he tell me a story? Because while my numbers may have been ambiguous, his numbers didn’t exist.
Another conservative, when faced with the numbers, told me that when the minimum wage increases, minimum wage unemployment increases. I asked for data, but he couldn’t give me any. Do you know why? Nobody keeps data on the unemployment rate for minimum wage jobs, because technically there is no job that can be branded as a “minimum wage job.” There are merely some jobs for which the employer only offers minimum wage, at least for new employees. So he was literally making up nonsense to back up his claim.
The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics has a great page called “Minimum Wage Mythbusters” that takes on many of the conservative positions on the minimum wage, and shows them to be false. It’s a great resource for debating your right-wing friends and relatives on the topic.
Here’s a brief summary of the minimum wage debate, from Bloomberg:
Featured image via Fibonacci Blue/Flickr