It’s a slam-dunk case that doubling the federal minimum wage — it’s been $7.25 since 2009 — would lead to significant declines in employment opportunities for workers with few skills or little experience. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2019 (before the pandemic), in 47 states, at least one-quarter of all workers earn less than $15 per hour. In 20 states, half of all workers earn less than $18 per hour, and in 30 states, the median hourly wage is less than $19.
These statistics show that $15 is a very high wage floor. For employers to keep all their workers would require raising the wages of a huge share of the national workforce. But the number of workers affected would be so large that this wouldn’t happen. Instead, the number of jobs in the low-wage workforce would shrink.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office confirms this basic intuition, estimating that joblessness would increase by 1.3 million if the national hourly wage floor were hiked to $15 [TC: and that is pre-pandemic]. The CBO also concluded that this policy would reduce business income, raise consumer prices and reduce gross domestic product.
That is from Michael Strain at Bloomberg. I would add this. No matter what you think about the recent literature on the minimum wage, all economic theories imply that minimum wages should be decided at the state and local level, given the economic heterogeneity of the United States. That is the message that you as an economist should be carrying forward.
Do you think Puerto Rico should be a state? Should they have a $15 minimum wage too? Come on. Yes, it is easy enough to make an exception for them, and by the way the median manufacturing wage in Mississippi is below $15 as well. Rinse and repeat.
I am sorry to speak in such terms, but the reality is that an allied cabal of activists and left-wing economists have combined on social media to insist on a particular approach to minimum wage economics and to bully those who disagree.
Ask yourself a simple question: were any of them calling for a temporary two-year cut in the minimum wage for restaurants and small businesses during a devastating pandemic? If not, are they really carrying forward the banner of science?