Small businesses back minimum wage hike

(MoneyWatch) One of the arguments against the federal minimum wage hike supported by the Obama administration is that it would hurt small businesses, which account for a lion's share of U.S. jobs. But a recent poll suggests that two-thirds of these employers back raising workers' baseline pay.

According to a poll of 500 small business owners conducted on behalf of Small Business Majority, an advocacy group, 67 percent of these firms favor boosting the minimum wage from the current rate of $7.25 an hour and adjusting it annually as the cost of living rises. Business owners did not indicate how high the minimum wage should be.

The results stand in contrast to a frequent criticism that a minimum wage increase would discourage small businesses from hiring and even cause layoffs. The National Federation of Independent Businesses, a trade group, contends that large corporations are mostly unaffected by a pay increase because most minimum-wage jobs are offered by smaller employers that would struggle to absorb an increase in their labor costs.

According to the survey, however, 85 percent of businesses already pay employees more than the minimum wage. Two-thirds also agreed with the following statement: "Increasing the minimum wage will help the economy because the people with the lowest incomes are the most likely to spend any pay increases buying necessities they could not afford before, which will boost sales at businesses."

Most of the businesses that participated in the survey had gross annual revenues under $500,000, and almost half had personal family incomes of under $100,000 a year. Eighty percent of the business owners were white; 60 percent were male; and 46 percent self-identified as Republican or Republican-leaning independent, while 35 percent identified as Democrat or Democrat-leaning independent.

The poll was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research against compensated research panels. The overall margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 percent, meaning that if the poll were conducted against the same group of potential participants, 95 times out of 100 the results should be within 4.4 percentage points of the current results.

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