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What does minimum wage increase mean for KC?

Posted at 6:55 PM, Apr 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-04 21:55:37-04

Local Kern County economists said it's just too early to tell how big of an impact the minimum wage will have on Kern County and whether or not the pros will outweighs the cons.

Richard Gearhart, an economics professor at California State University, Bakersfield, said in Kern County, about 130,000 workers or 45 percent of the workforce, will be impacted by the minimum wage increase. 

"As a county, we're going to be much more impacted than anyone else," said Gearhart. 

Economists said the $15 dollar per hour minimum wage will benefit those with minimum wage jobs. However, the increase may also have a negative impact, making it harder for those without jobs to find them. 

"The effect of raising the minimum wage has been pretty small as far as unemployment goes, but it's also been true that the raises in minimum wage has been pretty small," said Michael Harvath, an economics professor at Bakersfield College. 

Another threat to open job positions, self-service options. 

"What we could see in terms of employment losses is more technology in place of workers," said Gearhart. 

Both said instead of workers, employers may look into kiosks like McDonald's new "Create your taste" option where you can use a computer to build your burger, much like self check outs at a grocery store. 

However, Harvath said this may be an opportunity for older, more skilled workers to be hired over others. 

"There should be a decrease in demand for the low skilled workers, maybe an increase in demand for some of the high skilled workers who can do the job -- and do it better -- but currently aren't being hired because they're too expensive," said Harvath. 

Right now, both said it's hard to pinpoint exactly what will happen, but say the impact the minimum wage has in big cities such as Los Angeles or San Francisco will be drastically different than the impact locally. 

"It could significantly reduce poverty in Kern County and it could significantly help workers who may be on the broader line between poverty and not being in poverty. It could improve children's health, it could improve educational outcomes and as a whole it could be a net positive, we just won't know," said Gearhart. 

While some locally owned businesses have expressed they may have to lay off workers, Gearhart said he thinks the gradual increase in minimum wage will give mom and pop shops a chance to find ways to cut other costs.