Our wise vote to raise and index the minimum wage in 2014 will give our lowest-earning workers a little more coronavirus stimulus in 2021. According to the Department of Labor and Regulation and state law, the 1.4% increase in the Consumer Price Index over the past twelve months requires increasing South Dakota’s minimum wage on January 1 from $9.30 to $9.45 an hour. That fifteen-cent boost will raise the paycheck of a South Dakotan working full-time at a minimum wage job $300, from $18,600 to $18,900.
We raised the minimum wage via Initiated Measure 18 from $7.25 in 2014 to $8.50 on January 1, 2015. Annual employment data for the past decade (but not considering 2020 data yet, since this pandemic year is a wild outlier) shows that unemployment was already low in 2014—3.4%—but has been lower every year since. According to the last annual report from the Small Business Administration, the number of small businesses in South Dakota grew 1.9% in the year before the pandemic. We raised our minimum wage, unemploymen has gone down, and we have more small businesses.
At least week’s debate, Donald Trump said raising the minimum wage would crush small businesses. Joe Biden promised to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. South Dakota’s experience suggests the data on minimum wage increases lean more toward Biden’s promise than Trump’s unsupported assertions.