Bad Time for a Raise

Democrats in the State Assembly want to raise New York’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.50. At 17 percent, it would be the biggest one-time increase in the minimum wage in state history.

It would also be the wrong move at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons.

Job creation and economic growth in New York remain stagnant at best. Upstate, where decades of Rust Belt decay have ravaged city and town alike, unemployment and underemployment have become a way of life for far too many people.

A hike in the minimum wage very likely would make matters worse, despite the best intentions of the proposal’s supporters. Would-be employers will think twice about hiring entry-level employees, and that’s the last thing anybody wants in this economy.

There’s no question that those who live on minimum wage salaries have it tough. Rising prices have eroded the purchasing power of nearly a million and a half New Yorkers who work minimum wage jobs.

That said, state economic policy should have one single priority this year: job creation. Too many New Yorkers, especially in the western and northern parts of the state, are out of work or are working part-time. Albany has to figure out policies that will spur the creation of good, permanent, well-paying jobs. Tinkering with the minimum wage at a time of economic stagnation could easily result in job destruction, rather than job creation.

The Democrats’ bill would also tie increases in the minimum wage to the inflation rate. That, too, is bound to inhibit the creation of entry-level jobs and summer jobs for teens. Such increases might be justified when times are more prosperous, but they can be destructive when job creation is so stagnant. The bill’s supporters rightly argue that minimum wage increases over the years have not kept up with inflation. The question is whether this is the right time for a raise.

With job creation so weak, the answer has to be no.