ITHACA, N.Y.—The minimum wage in New York State will rise to $13.20 per hour outside of New York City, affirmed by a new employment report published by the state government on Sept. 27. Additionally, large fast-food firms statewide will maintain the minimum wage established at $15.00, which started for them in July.

You can read the report for yourself at the bottom of this page.

The changes will take effect on Dec. 31, 2021. Upstate minimum wage is climbing to $13.20 from $12.50 per hour, a rise of about 5.6 percent. The state is undergoing a minimum wage phase-in period that includes yearly increases until the minimum wage reaches $15 per hour statewide. According to a study by MIT, an actual “living wage” in America should be about $16.54 an hour, meaning even at the end of the increase schedule New York will fall short.

Though that has already happened in New York City, upstate workers have lagged behind so far, enduring lower yearly increases. At the current rate (which is about a 70 cents increase per hour every year), the minimum wage would reach $15 per hour in upstate starting on Dec. 31, 2024, though it would actually be slightly over $15 per hour at that point if the current trend is maintained.

In total, the report recommends that the minimum wage in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester Counties should rise to $15.00 in 2022, as well as the rise to $13.20 for all other places in New York. The $13.20 figure was determined by “the sum of the annual growth rates for the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers and labor productivity, as defined by real output per hour of all persons in the non-farm business sector.”

“The Path to $15 for Upstate” is another focus of the report, basically stating the case for why a $15 per hour minimum wage is justified and explaining that wage increases have slowed to a crawl even while productivity and prices have steadily risen.

“Between 1947 and 1968, the federal minimum wage, which initially ‘was applicable generally to employees engaged in interstate commerce or in the production of goods for instate commerce,’ grew from $0.40 to $1.60, an increase of 300 percent and more than double the combined growth of consumer prices and labor productivity,” the report claims. “But between 1968 and 2020, that combined growth totaled 780 percent, while the minimum wage has only risen 353 percent.”

While it does not include county-by-county data, the report is clear that deeper analyses of the statewide data show that a labor shortage does exist, though the state puts forth the argument that it could be solved through higher wages. There have certainly been examples of restaurants in Tompkins County, particularly large chain and fast-food restaurants, struggling to attract back enough workers to fill the pre-pandemic hours of operation, for a variety of reasons highlighted in the state report: fear of contracting COVID-19, higher monetary demands for hourly work, and reduced immigration to New York (which the report attributes to a generally more hostile national attitude towards immigrants over the last several years and travel restrictions or bans from the COVID-19 pandemic).

“Such circumstances would certainly point toward the need for higher pay to induce those workers to re-enter the labor force if the factors keeping them out of the workforce were expected to endure,” states the report.

It also made a point to emphasize that low-income workers felt the brunt of the economic devastation wrought by the pandemic, and that low-wage jobs have been the slowest to come back during the ongoing recovery attempts.

“That State wages fell only 0.7 percent in calendar year 2020 is [a] testament to how profoundly the low-income workforce was affected by the pandemic,” the report found. “Wages are estimated to grow 3.9 percent for 2021 and 5.3 percent for 2022.”

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com