The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) released a report on the economic impact of New York City’s requirement that employers provide workers with paid sick leave, finding that right-wing media concerns that such ordinances would create a prohibitive cost burden were “proven unfounded.” The ordinance was a particular target of the thoroughly discredited pundit Stephen Moore, who now counts himself among Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s senior economic advisers despite a consistent track record of being dead wrong on the economy.
According to a September 6 report from CEPR, fears that New York’s paid sick leave mandate would be “a major cost burden on employers” that could “invite widespread abuse by employees” have “proven unfounded.” The report surveyed 352 randomly selected businesses from October 2015 to March 2016 and found 97 percent of businesses had not reduced worker hours, 94 percent had not raised prices, and 91 percent had not reduced hiring activity as a result of the city’s paid sick leave mandate. The report also found that 96 percent of businesses reported no changes in customer service, and 94 percent reported no changes in productivity as a result of the law, which CEPR described as “a ‘non-event’ for most employers” despite the fact that the measure extended paid sick days to 1.4 million workers. The CEPR report on the successful implementation of paid sick leave in New York comes just two weeks after researchers with the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) found that paid sick leave laws like New York’s may prevent the spread of illnesses such as the flu and significantly improve public health.
Slate reported on CEPR's findings on September 7, mocking conservative critics of the law who worried it would create, as Slate put it, “a labor force of hypochondriac slackers” and drive businesses out of the city. Slate noted that paid sick leave laws had been passed in five states, Washington, D.C., and 26 cities since San Francisco enacted a paid leave mandate in 2007, calling the development “one of American progressives’ greatest policy triumphs.” Slate also noted that New York should be a good testing ground for how paid sick leave can affect economic growth, due to the city’s large size and the similar results found elsewhere by the U.S. Department of Labor. From Slate:
Did a labor force of hypochondriac slackers cause businesses to relocate to Nassau and Westchester Counties? It doesn’t look like it: New York City’s share of metropolitan employment has actually increased, slightly, in the two years since the revised law took effect.
That jibes with findings from other cities published by the U.S. Department of Labor in October. San Francisco has outperformed surrounding counties in job growth since the passage of its policy in 2007. Likewise, analyses of Seattle and Washington, D.C. found negligible impacts on hiring and business location. A ton of research has also shown that flexible leave policies have a positive effect on worker productivity, happiness, and health.
These findings -- and the report that New York has seen the best job creation in a half-century during Mayor Bill De Blasio’s first two years in office -- offer a stark rebuke to critics of paid leave mandates like Trump economic adviser Stephen Moore. During a January 17, 2014, appearance on Fox News, Moore, who was then a Wall Street Journal editorial board member, blasted New York’s paid sick leave mandate, falsely claiming it would be “very dangerous for cities” if more such laws were enacted.
Moore’s empty criticism echoed other right-wing pundits, who had attacked paid leave as an unwarranted “entitlement” and hyped the supposed costs to businesses while ignoring the benefits for workers. Right-wing media repeatedly push such myths and routinely dismiss the need for such laws as nothing more than part of a “giant welfare giveaway utopia.” The complete failure of this particular right-wing media myth in the face of actual evidence bolsters Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman’s claim that Moore “has a troubled relationship with the facts.” Krugman speculated that in the conservative economic policy climate where Moore has made his career, perhaps his “incompetence is actually desirable” -- after all, a “smart hack might turn honest.”