News and Commentary

NYC Implemented Minimum Wage Hike For Fast Food Workers. Now They’re Looking For Jobs.

In July 2015, New York’s Fast Food Wage Board, appointed by New York governor Andrew Cuomo, agreed with the labor movement and recommended a $15 an hour minimum wage for fast food workers working for companies with at least 30 stores nationwide.

That plan looks like it was a disaster, because following the implementation of that recommendation, New York City showed the greatest plunge in restaurant jobs in almost 20 years.

The 2015 recommendation meant that wages among fast-food restaurant workers in New York City would rise to $15 an hour by December 2018. A survey published near the end of 2018 found “76.50% of full service restaurant respondents reduced employee hours, and 36.30% eliminated jobs in 2018 … 75% of limited service restaurant respondents report that they will reduce employee hours, and 53.10% will eliminate jobs in 2019 as a result of mandated wage increases that took effect on December 31, 2018. … When the tip wage increased 50% in 2015, and since doubled, annual employment growth dropped from 6.67% to less than 1% as of November 2018.”

In mid February, economist Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute wrote:

December 2018 restaurant jobs were down by almost 3,000 (and by 1.64%) from the previous December, and the 2.5% annual decline in March 2018 was the worst annual decline since the sharp collapse in restaurant jobs following 9/11 in 2001. As the chart shows, it usually takes an economic recession to cause year-over-year job losses at NYC’s full-service restaurants, so it’s likely that this is a “restaurant recession” tied to the annual series of minimum wage hikes that brought the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour at the end of last year.

It’s not just New York City; in August 2016, reports surfaced that the raise in the minimum wage had hurt employees in Seattle. The Washington Post wrote, “Although some workers are earning more, fewer of them have a job than would have without an increase. Those who do have a job are working fewer hours than they would have without the wage hike.”

The Washington Examiner added:

The minimum wage hikes resulted in modest declines to their employment rates and hours worked. … The city’s employment rate was 4.3% percent in April 2015 when the $11 rate went into effect. By May of this year, Seattle unemployment had climbed to 4.8%.

Timothy Taylor explained at the Conversable Economist blog:

Low-wage workers in Seattle were better off as a result of the higher minimum wage if they managed to keep their job or to keep working roughly the same number of hours. But the employment rate of low-wage workers in Seattle declined slightly, as did the hours worked, which would lead to lower total earnings. The early evidence from Seattle is that a higher minimum wage at the city level doesn’t raise total earnings by much, because low-skilled workers end up with fewer hours on the job.

And then there’s San Francisco: In April 2017, the Harvard Business School released a study that examined restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area between 2008 and 2016 titled, “Survival of the Fittest: The Impact of the Minimum Wage on Firm Exit.” The study posited that a $1 increase in the minimum wage led to a roughly 14% increase in the likelihood of a median 3.5 star restaurant closing. The study concluded that over the next two years, San Francisco’s restaurant industry would shrink, meaning workers would lose jobs.