Baltimore Votes For Fewer Job Opportunities For City’s Unemployed Poor

Lofty rhetoric about $15 minimum wage will have real consequences for city’s less-skilled jobseekers
  • Publication Date: March 2017


Washington D.C. – Today, the Employment Policies Institute (EPI) criticized the Baltimore City Council for passage of a $15 minimum wage, highlighting how it would reduce job opportunities for the city’s unemployed poor.

In Baltimore City, the most recent data from the American Community Survey (ACS) show that over 40% of job-seeking residents in the labor force who live below the poverty line can’t find work. While the city council increases pay for some employees with this minimum wage hike, it exacerbates the real problem in Baltimore: A lack of jobs.

A $15 minimum wage has drawn bipartisan opposition. A University of New Hampshire survey published by my organization in late 2015 found that nearly three-quarters of economists oppose a broad $15 wage mandate. Dissenters include former members of the Obama and Clinton administrations. Bill Clinton’s former top labor economist warned cities like Baltimore that “local increases of this magnitude will generate big incentives for employers to move across local borders, especially from central cities to suburbs.” 

Minimum wage experiments in locales that have embraced extreme wage mandates have been tremendously disruptive. Just this winter, 64 restaurants closed in the Bay Area, with many citing the region’s high labor costs as a deciding factor. Late last year, the region was experiencing so many closures that one food industry publication described it as a “death march.” It’s not just restaurantsManufacturers. call centers, medical companies, grocery stores, coffee shops, and bookstores have been forced to close down, leave the state, or shed staff in response to unrealistic wage mandates.

“What Baltimore needs most is jobs, and the city’s representatives voted tonight to push them outside the city’s borders,” said Michael Saltsman, “Instead of learning from other locales on the consequences of $15, the City Council has volunteered Baltimore’s small businesses and low income residents to bear the tremendous consequences.”

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The Employment Policies Institute is a nonprofit research organization dedicated to studying public policy issues surrounding employment growth. In particular, EPI focuses on issues that affect entry-level employment. EPI receives support from restaurants, foundations, and individuals.