Minimum Wage Increases Fueling Bigger Paychecks Wage: Experts Accepting Larger Role of Wage Laws

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), January 3, 2020 | Go to article overview

Minimum Wage Increases Fueling Bigger Paychecks Wage: Experts Accepting Larger Role of Wage Laws


Byline: Andrew Van Dam and Rachel Siegel The Washington Post

The United States' lowest-paid workers are seeing their paychecks rise at the fastest pace in more than a decade.

Slow wage growth has plagued the economy ever since jobs started coming back after the Great Recession. But that's been changing, with wages rising at all levels and especially for those at the bottom.

The Trump White House and Washington policymakers have touted the tight labor market as the main engine driving gains for the working class, but a Washington Post analysis of Labor Department data suggests that paychecks also grew due to a nationwide movement of rising minimum wages in various states and cities over the past couple of years.

Last week, Gary Cohn, Trump's former director of the National Economic Council, and Kevin Hassett, Trump's former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed making the case that Trump's tax reform paved the way for rising wages for those in lower-paying jobs.

Indeed, the November unemployment rate was at its lowest since 1969, 3.5%, according to the Labor Department. Competition for workers at all levels, including low-skilled ones, has intensified. But can it really be a coincidence that the boom in wage growth came at a time when around half the U.S. states raised their minimum wage? The data suggests that minimum-wage-law changes played a role.

In the past week, minimum wages have risen in more than 20 states. Many of them are the result of increases that have been implemented in phases over the past few years, or indexed to inflation. Nearly 7 million workers began 2020 with higher wages, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank. This week, New Mexico's wage floor rose from $7.50 an hour to $9.00, and Washington state's rose from $12.00 to $13.50.

Ernie Tedeschi, head of fiscal analysis at Evercore ISI, calculates that state and local policies pushed the country's "effective" minimum wage rate to its highest rate ever. Tedeschi finds that an average hour of work subject to a minimum wage was about $11. …

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