NORTH WARREN, Pennsylvania – There’s an obvious mismatch for New York based businesses that becomes apparent once you’ve crossed the state line into Warren County. Help wanted signs to literally scream for applicants – similar to what happened in Chautauqua County.
Here, however, the starting salary in the fast food restaurants is between 10 and 12 US dollars an hour. In Pennsylvania, that’s a significant bump. Where we live is still below the current minimum wage.
How different is this threshold for these two nearby communities? The Pennsylvania tariff hasn’t changed in 15 years and remains at $ 7.25 an hour. In Upstate it is 12.50 US dollars, on December 31st there is a threat of 13.20 US dollars – an increase of 70 cents.
These annual migrations in our region have weighed heavily on spending for the private sector and the smaller non-profit organizations. But as the rate continues to rise, it is beginning to affect the public sector – where wages and benefits are already generous.
This week Gowanda Central Schools had to switch to a remote learning model due to a staff shortage. “We currently do not have enough staff in critical areas to run the school district completely personally”, said Dr. Robert Anderson in a statement to the school community on Tuesday.
In Mayville, lawmakers are beginning to scrutinize wage levels for Chautauqua County’s employees after hearing from Human Resources Director Jean Riley earlier this month. She noted that the county had 82 vacancies, which doesn’t include the new jobs created in the 2022 budget. “In the environment of labor shortages, it is becoming even more difficult to attract employees for our vacancies.” She said.
That certainly doesn’t bode well for the numerous industries, healthcare facilities, and restaurants in the area that are already desperate for vacancies. All you have to do is look at the payrolls in the city and school districts where the larger units are budgeting millions of dollars.
According to seethroughny.net, the county has 1,234 employees this year, who collectively earn more than $ 56 million. Ten of these employees earn more than $ 100,000 a year, while 113 – 9.1% of the workforce – receive more than $ 100,000 in salaries, health care, and benefits.
These positions are paid for with taxpayer money that comes from both the state and local property owners. There is no way that for-profit institutions, desperate for labor, can compete on those wages.
Officials can talk about human resource development here as much as they want. But there is no denying the problems the rising minimum wage poses for every sector of employment in this region. Job offers are currently the rule – not the exception.
The hourly rate increases every year, and those employees who are above this rightly want additional remuneration. This creates an instability that we are faced with in the current crisis.
In the meantime, officials in Albany continue to talk like everything is dandy. Consider this September comment from State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon: “Corporations, especially those that employ low-wage workers, are already raising wages and in some cases are offering incentives to hire amid a labor shortage that will not go away, and it makes sense to raise and continue supporting the wage floor now.” at the same time offers a predictable path for companies. With today’s action (the increase of the minimum wage) we are continuing the work of building with justice and justice. “
Numbers tell a different story. Although the district’s unemployment rate continues to decline from 9.6% in January to 4.7% in September, the number of people in employment – according to the state labor ministry – is estimated to be around 100 less today than at the beginning of 2021, when figures were available closer to 53,200. In addition, throughout the minimum wage increase, poverty rates remained stable at 16% in the county and 25-30% in the cities of Dunkirk and Jamestown. The county’s median household income according to the census is $ 46,820.
Here are other variations in this model. Neighboring Warren County, which has a minimum wage 42% below that of New York state, has a higher median household income of $ 50,250 and its poverty rate is 13.5%, 3% less than here at home.
This begs the question: will the ongoing minimum wage increase help or harm the state? Those in Albany with little concern about payroll hiring and stabilizing need to see a bigger picture.
John D’Agostino is the editor of OBSERVER, The Post-Journal and Times Observer based in Warren, Pennsylvania. Send comments to [email protected] or call 716-366-3000, ext. 253.