MEDIA RELEASE: Raising minimum wage could boost economic growth in North Carolina

RALEIGH (March 26, 2013) — President Obama’s proposal to raise the minimum wage to $9.00 by 2015 and the subsequent Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, which would increase the minimum wage to $10.10, have garnered attention across the U.S. and here in North Carolina. Raising the federal minimum wage would have far-reaching impacts on North Carolina’s working families and the economy as a whole, a new report finds.

While the intended purpose of the minimum wage is to serve as a protection of living standards, a raise would also drive up consumer demand by putting money into the pockets of working families, thereby helping employers grow and create new jobs, according to a new report from the North Carolina Justice Center. The majority of minimum-wage workers who would be impacted by a raise are adults whose families depend on their earnings to make ends meet.

Raising the minimum wage to $9.00 by 2015 would affect approximately 693,000 workers in North Carolina, the report said.  More than 80 percent of these workers are over 20 years of age, and almost half of those who would be directly affected work full-time. The raise would disproportionately affect women, who comprise 61 percent of affected workers, and also benefit minority and non-minority workers. The racial/ethnic breakdown of affected workers would be 13.9 percent Hispanic, 31.2 percent black, and 49.9 percent white.

The report finds that a full-time minimum-wage worker earns approximately $15,080 each year, about $3,000 less than the 2012 poverty threshold for a family of three with two children. The Living Income Standard, a conservative market-based approach to measuring how much income a family in North Carolina actually needs to make ends meet, is $41,920 per year for a family of three.

Research has found that raising the minimum wage boosts earnings without causing job losses, and, in turn, aids economic growth. Low-wage workers are more likely to spend their earnings on basic needs and services, and an increase in the minimum wage would augment this spending power and increase consumer demand. In North Carolina, the estimated impact on the state’s Gross Domestic Product of a minimum-wage increase to $9.00 is $495 million with an estimated 4,300 new jobs created, the report finds.

“The existing federal proposals to raise the minimum wage are a step in the right direction, both for working families and for North Carolina’s struggling economy,” said Sabine Schoenbach, a policy analyst with the NC Justice Center’s Workers’ Rights Project.” Restoring the value of the minimum wage provides the lowest-paid workers with a much-needed raise, while increasing the consumer spending on which economic growth depends.”

Read the full report here.