Job numbers improve after wage jump – but a biz group wants planned hikes halted

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Minnesota's largest pro-business advocacy group wants to nix the planned rises for the minimum wage before they even happen. And it comes at a time where the state is reporting some of its best job numbers in years, just months after a minimum wage hike went into effect.

MPR reports the state's Chamber of Commerce is hoping to eliminate or slow down the automatic minimum wage triggers that were put into place earlier this year as part of the newly-passed law.

In addition to planned rises over the next two years (from $8 to $9.50 an hour for large businesses, and $6.50 to $7.75 an hour for smaller ones), an automatic increase tied to inflation is set to kick in starting in 2018.

The Chamber of Commerce bills itself as the state's largest business advocacy organization, representing more than 2,400 businesses across Minnesota. In 2010, CityPages described the chamber as "the 800-pound gorilla in the Capitol," noting it spent "twice as much on lobbyists as any other organization in the state" in 2008.

What the chamber wants to change

For the upcoming lawmaking session, it's mainly looking to scrap the inflation portion of the wage increases.

Ben Gerber, the group's labor policy manager, told MPR lawmakers should have to consider an increase year-to-year rather than relying on an automatic process. In addition, he said greater Minnesota businesses will be particularly hurt by the rising wage.

Gerber also told the Associated Press repealing or slowing down any of these new laws could be difficult, since the Democrats control two of the three bodies who decide that (the state Senate and the governorship).

Job numbers have been good, however

The chamber's concern comes despite a string of recent positive news for Minnesota's economy in recent months, even after the first minimum wage jump in August.

The state's most recent unemployment report, released Thursday, tallied a jobless rate of 3.7 percent – the lowest it has been since May of 2001, and significantly lower than the national rate of 5.8 percent.

Of the 6,600 jobs gained in November, 92 percent went to the leisure and hospitality industry, such as restaurants and hotels – which the Star Tribune points out was one of the areas people were most concerned about taking a hit when the minimum wage began going up.

November was one of the two best months on record (the other being in September of this year) for hiring in hotels and restaurants, the paper says – though it does come after a fairly steep drop in October.

State Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley), released a statement Thursday, saying the news "flies in the face of the doom and gloom promised by Republicans and the Chamber of Commerce, who claimed that any increase in the minimum wage would devastate Minnesota’s economy."

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