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  1. Florida Politics

Integrity Florida report: Minimum wage hike does not cost jobs

Published Jul. 21, 2015

TALLAHASSEE — The research and watchdog group Integrity Florida released a report Monday calling it a myth that a higher minimum wage results in job losses.

"We wanted to take an objective look at the claim made by some that an increase in the minimum wage means employers will cut jobs," said Ben Wilcox, research director of Integrity Florida. "Our research found no evidence that claim is true."

Integrity Florida compared state-by-state jobs numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics with increases in the minimum wage from Jan. 1, 2014, to Jan. 1, 2015.

During that time, 25 states raised the minimum wage, and every state experienced job growth except for West Virginia. The report also found higher job growth in states that raised the minimum wage, including Florida, than in states that didn't.

The report by Wilcox and Alan Stonecipher also examined five cities and counties that increased the minimum wage, all of which saw year-to-year job growth. They are the Washington, D.C., suburbs of Montgomery County and Prince George's County, Md.; Las Cruces, N.M.; Sante Fe County, N.M.; and SeaTac, Wash. The data shows that Washington State has the nation's highest statewide minimum wage of $9.47, and ranked second among states in job growth during the period at 6.8 percent.

A total of 29 states and the District of Columbia (which recently increased its minimum wage to $10.50 an hour) require employers to pay a higher minimum wage than the federal rate. Florida's minimum wage of $8.05 an hour is tied to the consumer price index following passage of a voter-approved constitutional amendment in 2004.

A leading statewide business group, the Florida Retail Federation, disputed the findings.

"There's only a finite amount of money that a business allocates to salaries," said James Miller, a spokesman for the retail federation. "I don't understand how you would expect business owners to allocate more money to salaries than they can afford."

Another petition drive is under way that would ask Florida voters to approve a $10 minimum wage in 2016.

In his campaign for re-election last year, Gov. Rick Scott opposed a higher minimum wage, and Democratic rival Charlie Crist supported raising it to $10.10 an hour. Scott signed a law in 2013 that prohibits cities and counties from establishing their own minimum wage ordinances. Scott relies on the same government data that Integrity Florida used to show job growth in Florida.

Contact Steve Bousquet at bousquet@tampabay.com or (850) 224-7263. Follow @stevebousquet.