Dueling Data on the Impact of Santa Fe’s Minimum Wage

In the last few weeks, dueling economic surveys have been published outlining the economic imact of Santa Fe’s minimum wage law. One study by the New Mexico Department of Labor found that “Santa Fe County added only 300 jobs between June 2005 and June 2006, the lowest rate of job growth in almost four years,” most likely due to Santa Fe’s dramatically-higher minimum wage.
Yet, just a week prior to the release of the Department of Labor study, the UNM Bureau of Business & Economic Research had found that for a different time period than was studied by the Department of Labor, “Santa Fe’s minimum-wage ordinance hasn’t affected overall employment levels in the city.”
So, who do you believe? For a trained economist, the answer is obvious: to the degree that a minimum wage is actually effective in the sense that it will raise wages, people at the lowest ends of the economic ladder will lose jobs, businesses will rely on automation, or labor-intensive businesses will move elsewhere. If the wage rate is low enough that it has no reall economic impact on wages, then the economic impact will be minimal.
It seems obvious that as Santa Fe’s wage rate continues to rise, hitting $10.50 an hour in 2008, the impact on Santa Fe’s economy will become more pronounced and job growth will slow. Rather than jumping on the minimum wage bandwagon with Santa Fe, the rest of the state should wait to see how things play out there.