by State Representative Leon D. Young
Taken solely at face value, a quadrant of indicators in a recently released study now purports that the economic health of the country may be improving at long last. In fact, the report goes as far as to project a robust U.S. economy. Here are the encouraging numbers that have caused this economic stir:
• The U.S. economy created 215,000 new jobs in March.
• Hourly earnings for Americans workers increased 2.3 percent in March.
• The national Institute of Supply Management manufacturing index turned positive for the first time since August.
• U.S. auto sales posted their best month in more than a decade.
Admittedly, the increase in the workforce, the strongest in over two decades, suggests that the job market is finally pulling discouraged workers back into the employment arena, which is definitely a positive sign.
However, a closer examination of the March jobs number (215,000) masks a different concern.
A large percentage of these new employment opportunities are in the service industry sector of the economy, which are predominantly lower-paying, minimum wage jobs.
By way of illustration, retailers added 47,700 jobs last month and have created 358,000 in the last year; while hotels and restaurants also made gains — 26,000 jobs in March.
This means that roughly one-in-three jobs created last month fell within the lower-paying spectrum. This, in turn, is fueling the demand to raise the minimum wage.
This income inequality debate is finally getting some national traction. Just last week, California approved a measure to lift its minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020, more than double the federal minimum of $7.25. And, New York lawmakers have agreed on a $15 minimum by 2018. We would be remiss, however, in not mentioning that the city of Seattle took the initiative in addressing this issue.
Seattle’s city council voted almost two years ago to raise its minimum wage to $15/hr., while the rest of the nation slept. In addition, numerous public opinion polls show that a minimum wage hike has broad support:
• 75 percent of Americans support raising the minimum wage to $12.50 by 2020, including 92 percent Democrats, 73 percent Independents and 53 percent Republicans
• 63 percent of Americans support an even greater federal minimum wage increase to $15.00 by 2020
In closing, allow me to put forth one last argument, many studies have shown that raising the minimum wage doesn’t have a negative impact on job growth. In fact, it can actually help businesses by raising productivity, lowering turnover, and increasing demand for products from workers with more money in their pockets.
Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is a no-brainer; and Bernie Sanders is the only presidential candidate that has it right.