Hourly wages in Kentucky have fallen steadily since 2001. | Source: Kentucky Center for Economic Policy
Hourly wages in Kentucky have fallen steadily since 2001. | Source: Kentucky Center for Economic Policy

Retailers in Kentucky are adding full-time positions at a faster clip than this time last year, according to a survey released Monday by the Kentucky Retail Federation.

Roughly 14 percent of respondents reported they had created new full-time positions in 2015, a 5 percent increase over last spring. Meanwhile, 9 percent of retailers created new part-time positions, a 3 percent increase over the same time last year. The survey reflects only about 15 percent of the 1,000 member businesses the organization queried.

But hourly wages across the state have been on a downward trend since 2001, according to recent data compiled by the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, with nearly half of the state’s fast-food workers qualifying for food assistance programs.

KRF took the release of its new jobs figures to reiterate its case against raising the minimum wage.

The organization, along with the Kentucky Restaurant Association and local company Packaging Unlimited, filed a lawsuit in February challenged a city law raising the minimum wage to $9 per hour for all workers over the next three years. A decision on the suit expected before July 1, The Courier-Journal recently reported.

“Threat of a minimum wage increase was among the top five concerns of our survey respondents,” said KRF President Tod Griffin in a news release. “While many are already paying well over the current minimum wage, increasing the entire wage scale would certainly have a financial impact on the business community.”

KRF reported that one-fifth of its members pay above $10 an hour in starting wages, and 44 percent pay more than half their workers $10.10 an hour or better, while 15 percent of member businesses said they paid workers more than $15 an hour.

According to the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, more than 58,000 workers in Louisville stand to benefit when the city’s $9-per-hour minimum wage is fully implemented, both through direct raises and upward pressure on pay that is slightly higher than $9 per hour. The vast majority — 88 percent — are at least 20 years old, the organization says.

Jason Bailey, KCEP’s executive director, has also challenged the notion that businesses suffer when they are required to pay a higher minimum wage.

“Rigorous studies of minimum-wage increases in Santa Fe and San Francisco found no statistically significant negative effects on jobs or hours worked, as have studies of bordering counties between states after one state raises its minimum wage,” Bailey wrote in an op-ed during local debate over the proposed increase last year. “The fact is that employers save money through reduced employee turnover due to higher wages, and many businesses benefit from the extra spending in the local economy by workers who get a raise.”

 

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Stephen George is news editor of Insider Louisville. He is a former editor of LEO Weekly and the Nashville City Paper, and a former news editor of the Nashville Scene. He has written for various other news and culture publications and is happy to be back in Louisville.


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