Monday, March 23, 2015

The data runs counter to claims by business groups and owners who fear higher wages would cause layoffs

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - New York added 17,000 jobs in low-wage industries in 2014 after the state's minimum wage rose to $8 an hour, according to an analysis by the Fiscal Policy Institute.

The data runs counter to claims by business groups and owners who fear higher wages would cause layoffs as Gov. Andrew Cuomo and others advocate for New York to hike its minimum wage to $10.50 an hour.

There is a catch: Job growth in places like fast-food restaurants, hotels and stores slowed down compared to previous years, the data shows. Yet that's true for all job numbers in 2014.

So it's hard to pin 2014's sluggish job picture specifically on a higher minimum wage, according to economist James Parrott.

"It's sort of a mixed picture," says Parrott of the Fiscal Policy Institute. "It doesn't look as though there were any adverse effects in these (low-wage) industries." It's a careful analysis from an economist who works for an institute that favors higher wages. 

Ken Pokalsky, of the Business Council of New York State, says it's too early to say how the rising wage rate is affecting job numbers. The council is fighting the new push for an even higher wage rate.

"In one-year slices, it's really hard to say," says Pokalsky, who also cautions against comparing December to December job numbers - as the institute did - because of the holiday season hirings. "I don't know that you can make any strong conclusion about minimum wage."

New York's minimum wage went to $8 in 2014, is at $8.75 this year, and will go to $9 an hour next year. That will be $18,000 a year for a full-time worker.

"What I'm saying to the Legislature is $18,000 is not enough money to live in the state of New York," Cuomo said at a wage rally in Geddes in early March. "You can't pay for food and rent and clothing and medical and heat and electric. It just doesn't work. Do the math."

Cuomo estimates that 1.3 million New Yorkers would get a raise under his proposal. In Central New York, the number of people making minimum wage would more than double, from 23,500 at the current $8.75 rate to 55,827 at $10.50 , according to the governor's office.

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