Economic Outlook Survey

Economic uncertainty – across the globe and in our neighborhoods – has become commonplace early in 2019. Although our state has enjoyed nation-leading job and income growth, the murmurs of concern have mounted in many corners. As often as we hear announcements of new jobs, new stores, manufacturing plants, and restaurants, we hear that consumers and employers are losing confidence. Retail sales were down last December. 

Economists are revising their 2019 forecasts, saying growth is slowing. Nearly half of the nation’s  business economists anticipate a recession by the end of next year.

Expectations drive budgets, for families, businesses, and governments. The mechanics are simple. How much money do we think we’ll have? What are our spending commitments? Our priorities? What can we do without? How much should we hold back for emergencies? 

Over the last ten years, state spending has grown 44 percent. And revenue growth in our state has been among the strongest in the nation. Yet, many lawmakers are now calling for new taxes and higher spending.

Against this backdrop, we want to know your thoughts on the state economy. Do you expect continued growth? Are we headed for a slowdown?

 

LA passes $15 minimum wage; Tacoma may see proposal on November ballot

The $15 minimum wage campaign continues its march across the country. The Los Angeles City Council Tuesday adopted a $15 minimum, phased in over several years. 

Several other cities, including San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle and Oakland, Calif., have already approved increases, and dozens more are considering doing the same.

Familiar names appear in the coverage.

“The effects here will be the biggest by far,” said Michael Reich, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, who was commissioned by city leaders to conduct several studies on the potential effects of a minimum-wage increase.

Reich was one of the economists who conducted research for Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s minimum wage committee

Backers of a $15 minimum wage for Tacoma turned in signatures Monday. The Pierce County Auditor says the verification process will be completed by May 27. 

The initiative may not be the only minimum wage proposal on the ballot.

The $15 minimum wage issue could share the ballot with a competing measure blessed by the Tacoma City Council. Mayor Marilyn Strickland and the City Council created a task force to examine how to change the city’s minimum wage after the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber asked her to create a group to study alternatives.

According to the proposed ballot measure, businesses making gross revenues of $300,000 per year or more would have to pay a $15 minimum wage with no phase-in period or exceptions based on a business’s number of employees.

The News Tribune editorial board recently weighed in on the proposals.
You have to credit the 15 Now Tacoma folks. With the threat of a radical ballot initiative, they’ve forced the capitalist running dogs of Tacoma — i.e., the City Council and Chamber of Commerce — to scramble for an alternative that will undoubtedly involve raising the minimum wage in the city…

The initiative, if passed, would move the current $9.47-an-hour minimum to $15 as soon as the measure is certified at the beginning of 2016. Were that to happen, Tacoma would be immortalized as a textbook case of utopian economics run amok.

…hundreds of the city’s small employers could no longer do business as usual. Some would fold; some would move to Lakewood, University Place or Fife; some would reduce hours, lay off employees or cut benefits to comply with the initiative…

A lot of workers would wind up with $0.00 an hour, which is what you earn when you have no job.

The editorial argued for an approach that raises the wage with “a degree of economic literacy.” Read the whole thing… it’s worth the time.
 
The FiveThirtyEight blog puts the $15 minimum wage in context, noting the significant variation in living costs across the country and the phase-in adopted by LA. 
According to data from the Council for Community and Economic Research, it costs workers about 40 percent more to live in Los Angeles than in the average American community. That means that $15 in LA is the equivalent of less than $11 in the U.S. overall.
That’s one reason discussions of raising the federal minimum wage quickly get complicated. FiveThirtyEight calculates the effective rate for major cities. Here’s a snapshot of the top tier. (Highlighting added.)
538 Chart
 
We’ve written about the effects of boosting the minimum wage on a metro level. 
In addition to the absolute costs of these measures, and the challenge they create in competing with other employers not subject to the same mandates, local governments’ wage and benefit regulations create compliance problems for employers operating in multiple jurisdictions…
 
Research is mixed on the effects of incremental increases in the minimum wage, but large increases are clearly associated with declining job opportunities for the young and unskilled.
For more discussion, see this Washington Research Council minimum wage analysis,  this column by Megan McCardle on the LA wage hike, and this short City Journal discussion on the effects of the higher minimum wage on young workers.