Credit where credit is due: Seattle Times reporter Lynn Thompson, who I've criticized plenty in the past, has a helpful story that dispels a common myth about raising the minimum wage. San Francisco raised its minimum wage from 6.75 to $10.74 over the last decade, and researchers examined wage hike:
What have the effects been on employment?
Almost none, according to economists at the University of California, Berkeley, who have studied San Francisco, eight other cities that raised their minimum wages in the past decade, and 21 states with higher base pay than the federal minimum.
Businesses absorbed the costs through lower turnover, small price increases at restaurants, which have a high concentration of low-wage workers, and higher worker productivity, the researchers found. The average increase among cities raising the minimum wage was 40 percent. The average step increase for a phased-in pay hike was 17 percent.
“Our data show that an increase up to $13 an hour has no measurable effect on employment,” said Michael Reich, a Berkeley economics professor with the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment.
Brace yourself. During Seattle's discussion about raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour later this year, we're going to hear this a lot more: Pretty much any policy that helps workers will hurt "job creators" and "kill jobs."
Of course, we've heard hat providing sick days would kill jobs—jobs actually went up. We've heard taxes on the rich are a job killer—also bogus. We're told that providing better health care is another job killer—yeah, a tiny number of jobs people didn't want and held to pay for overpriced health care. In San Francisco, small businesses were given a couple years to phase in the policy, something that's also on the table in Seattle.
Professor Reich didn't make the promise that Seattle's proposed jump to $15 would have an equally low impact as San Francisco, but research from Reich and others makes a pretty strong case: When people reflexively claim that raising the minimum wage is a wholesale job killer, it's a talking point from conservative business lobbies, not necessarily a fact.