The Retail Sector—New York’s Biggest Low-wage Employer Needs to Provide Higher Wages

Among all sectors, retail trade has the most low-wage workers in New York State. Over a half million (555,200) retail workers will benefit from an increase in the statewide minimum wage to $15 an hour. These workers make up nearly a fifth (18 percent) of the 3.2 million workers receiving a wage boost, although retail jobs represent one in nine of all New York jobs. With the phased-in $15 minimum wage floor, 61 percent of all women retail workers would receive higher wages, as would 55 percent of all men retail workers. Retail workers are overwhelmingly adults (91 percent), only 9 percent are teenagers. Fifty-three percent of the retail workers who would benefit are white, non-Hispanic, and 47 percent are persons of color. Of all African-American retail workers, 62 percent would receive a wage increase, as would 65 percent of all Latino retail workers. More than one-quarter (27 percent) of all retail workers are parents struggling to raise families on very low wages. Over half of all retail workers (53 percent) who would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage receive some form of public assistance because their retail wages are so low. Median hourly pay for New York’s retail workers has fallen by 7-9 percent since 2002, adjusted for inflation, this is far greater than the 1 percent decline in the overall median wage.