Effects of minimum wage increase in the Yakima Valley Pt. 1
YAKIMA, Wash.- Working for minimum wage might not seem like a big problem if you are still in high school or right out of college.
But as of 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported there are over 62 million people in the U.S., above the age of 22, who make minimum wage.
In 2016, the state of Washington voted to increase minimum wage to $13.50 an hour which should help those families and their local economy, right?
“There's more money in the employee's pocket and that in-turn gets circulated through the economy because there's more spending in the economy from that,” Jonathan Smith said.
Smith is with the Yakima County Development Association said it also brings its fair share of problems as well.
Especially for people who were already making more than minimum wage and are now closer to the bottom of the wage scale.
“Now you're competing at a wage level with people that may have a year or two years of experience,” Smith said.
Kyle McConnell is a construction worker in Yakima who was well above the $11.50 an hour minimum a couple years ago.
But he got injured and is now back at minimum wage.
“For the last 16 months, I’ve had to learn how to go from a high wage to the minimum wage and make that work,” he said.
During the election period, McConnell said he voted against the wage increase in 2016.
Even though both he and his wife are now making $11.50 an hour, he said he's still against increasing the minimum wage.
“I wanted her to make a high wage but at the same time, businesses have to counter that somehow,” he said.
McConnell said he's noticed groceries have been more expensive for him and his family as of late and he isn't wrong.
The BLS said the consumer price index in Washington has risen 3.2 percent from March 2017 to March 2018.
That doesn't mean the wage increased caused it to go up, but its higher than the two previous year.
The index is usually referred to as a cost of living index and it tracks how much people are spending for goods and services.
“The annual average for all of last year was 2.8 percent. The year before that was 1.9 percent. As of late they've been increasing at a high rate,” Matthew Insco with BLS said.
McConnell said his drop in wage, plus the increased cost of living, has forced him to try and make up for the lost income.
He said without taking on odd jobs and changing how he spends his money, it would be impossible to support his family.
“If I was just working 40 hours a week and this happened to me when I was the only one working, we wouldn't survive,” McConnell said.