State-required minimum wage in Westchester going up

By Peter Katz
December 6, 2019

The minimum wage required to be paid under New York state law by businesses in Westchester goes up to $13 per hour as planned on Dec. 31, as a Dec. 4 report by the Division of the Budget found that scheduled minimum wage increases have not negatively impacted the state’s economy.

Annual reports on the impact on the economy of increasing the minimum hourly wage were mandated when the $15 minimum wage law was put into effect.

The increase from the current $12 per hour to $13 in Westchester is part of a schedule that phases-in increases on a regional basis. Outside of New York City, Long Island and Westchester, the minimum wage in the state rises to $11.80 per hour from the current $11.10 per hour.

In New York City, what the state refers to as “big” employers, those having 11 or more employees, already are required to pay a minimum wage of $15 per hour. For so-called “small” employers in New York City, those with 10 or fewer employees, the minimum wage rises from $13.50 to $15 on Dec. 31.

Legislation requiring a minimum wage of $15 per hour in New York state was passed as part of the 2016-2017 state budget, but the timing depended on location. The wage rate schedule shows Westchester and Long Island hitting the $15 maximum on Dec. 31, 2021. For areas outside of New York City, Westchester and Long Island, the highest minimum wage currently established is $12.50 per hour as of Dec. 31, 2020.

The Division of the Budget’s report showed the 2019 average unemployment rate in Westchester at 3.5% compared with 4.2% for New York City and 4% statewide. The report said there is a tight labor market and suggested that increased competition for employees would have pushed up wages to some extent even without higher state-mandated minimum wages.

The report said that national economic growth can be expected to moderate in 2020 but added, “There is no evidence yet that the longest economic expansion in U.S. history is going to come to an end at any point over the near-term forecast horizon.”

It said the budget division expects the nation’s economy to grow 1.9% in 2020 and expects that 1.9% also will be the number for New York state. It expected private sector jobs statewide to grow at 1.2% in 2020, compared with 1.4% growth in 2019.

The report said that health care, construction, transportation and warehousing and professional and business services are expected to continue as New York’s leading industrial sectors. It projected that the number of minimum wage workers in the state would rise to about 1.5 million in 2020. That would be about 16.4% of the total New York workforce.

The report said that demographics in the minimum wage workforce have been changing, with 31.3% expected to be in the age 16 to 24 group in 2020, compared with 41.1% having been in that age group in 2009. The minimum wage workforce has been 57% women since 2009 and is forecast to remain that way into 2020.