On January 1, the minimum wage in San Francisco will cross the psychological threshold of $10 an hour. An automatic cost-of-living adjustment built into city law will raise the wage floor 3.2 percent, from its current $9.92 to $10.24. Predictably, employers have been warning that the increase will cost jobs. In fact, a great deal of economic evidence suggests otherwise.
Last March, my CEPR colleague, David Rosnick, and I finished a detailed study of the employment impact of the first three years of the San Francisco minimum wage. Back in early 2004, San Francisco established a city-wide minimum wage of $8.50 –25 percent higher than the $6.75 California state minimum wage at the time and 65 percent higher than the prevailing federal minimum of $5.15.
We analyzed employment patterns in a range of industries with a high share of low-wage workers, including fast food and retail. We compared trends in wages and employment in San Francisco before and after the increase with trends over the same period in San Francisco’s adjacent suburbs and, separately, in nearby Oakland, two areas where the minimum wage was unchanged.
To rule out statistical flukes, we looked at the impact after one year, then two years, then three years. We also examined the impact on low-wage employers, regardless of industry, and we isolated the impact on small employers (fewer than 10 employees and 10 to 24 employees).