As headline numbers go, 60,000 is a grabber, particularly when paired with the words "jobs lost."
Ontario's minimum wage is $14 per hour as of this week, and increases are in the works across the country. Estimates vary concerning the jobs likely to be lost – or more precisely, the employment that would otherwise have been created under last year's conditions.
But the 60,000 figure carries the imprimatur of the Bank of Canada, contained as it was in a research note written by central bank analysts. And it jibes with the complaints of Ontario business owners who say they are having to cut back workers' hours to meet their new wage costs.
Some context is in order, however. Minimum-wage policies affect about 15 per cent of the workforce, and while forgoing 60,000 jobs by the end of 2019 is not a desirable outcome for our economy, and for younger workers who stand to be hardest hit, it's not catastrophic in a labour market that created close to 500,000 new jobs last year.
Even in the case where employers throttle back on hiring and hours, there is every expectation of a net gain in employment by the end of next year.
Similarly, the research note's forecast of a 0.1-per-cent decrease in GDP and 0.1-per-cent rise in inflation caused by higher minimum wages does not foretell economic doom.
There's even a chance none of the bad stuff will happen. Recent studies have challenged assumptions that wage hikes lead to lost work or diminished purchasing power. The Bank of Canada made it clear that its report was the opinion of its authors, and did not reflect its own view.
None of the preceding is to say that hurriedly jacking Ontario's minimum wage from $11.60 to $15 in less than two years, as Premier Kathleen Wynne has done for transparently electoral reasons, was a good idea.
Minimum hourly wages should rise over time, but is ramping them up in unpredictable jumps, largely for political gain, the best way to help low-income earners? Are there other forms of support that might be as effective, but with fewer economic costs?
Serious governments should ask these questions before barrelling ahead.