Failing State: $15 minimum wage drives clothing manufacturer out of Los Angeles

"But at least we won the election! Obama!!"

“But at least we raised the minimum wage! Yay, Jerry Brown!!”

In my posts on the minimum wage and the Left’s push to raise it ever higher, I’ve tried to point out one key truth: Labor is a cost of doing business that businesses have to account for. When costs go up, these firms have only a few choices:

  1. They can pass on the cost to the consumer, risking the loss of customers’ business.
  2. They can cut labor costs by reducing hiring, cutting back hours, laying off employees, and automating.
  3. They can decide the reduced profit isn’t worth it and close shop, costing all employees their jobs.
  4. They can move out of the jurisdiction, probably costing local employees their jobs.

The government of California recently decided to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022, an increase of 50% from today’s state-mandated rate. At the bill’s signing, the Governor said the measure didn’t make “economic sense.” (1)

One employer, at least, agrees with him:

Los Angeles was once the epicenter of apparel manufacturing, attracting buyers from across the world to its clothing factories, sample rooms and design studios.

But over the years, cheap overseas labor lured many apparel makers to outsource to foreign competitors in far-flung places such as China and Vietnam.

Now, Los Angeles firms are facing another big hurdle — California’s minimum wage hitting $15 an hour by 2022 — which could spur more garment makers to exit the state.

Last week American Apparel, the biggest clothing maker in Los Angeles, said it might outsource the making of some garments to another manufacturer in the U.S., and wiped out about 500 local jobs. The company still employs about 4,000 workers in Southern California.

“The exodus has begun,” said Sung Won Sohn, an economist at Cal State Channel Islands and a former director at Forever 21. “The garment industry is gradually shrinking and that trend will likely continue.”

When San Francisco raised the city’s minimum wage, a beloved bookstore closed shop because the cost of business had grown too high. Seattle has lost 700 restaurant jobs because the restaurant industry’s thin profit margins cannot support a $15 minimum wage.

And it’s not just current workers who are harmed: low-skill or unskilled youths looking for that first job are going to discover its harder to find one. Not only will fewer jobs be available out of the limited pool of funds set aside for hiring, but employers are going to want more for their money: employees who already have skills, who require less training. The unskilled 17 year old looking for his or her first job is going to be a lot less attractive.

Great work, legislature and governor, activists and union leaders.You’re driving businesses out of state, costing people jobs, and making it harder to find work. Well done.

They say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. In this case, that road runs through Sacramento.

RELATED: Moe Lane notes that AA was bleeding cash from paying already-uneconomical wages.

Footnote:
(1) I leave it to the reader as an exercise to determine why a governor would sign a bill he says make no economic sense. Or, you can read the article.

 

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