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Katie Sanders
By Katie Sanders October 10, 2014

Would raising the minimum wage cost 500,000 jobs?

The minimum wage has long been a dividing line in the race between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist in the governor’s race, so it’s not surprising that it emerged during the first of three televised debates.

During the Oct. 10, 2014, debate hosted by the Spanish-language network Telemundo, a panelist asked Scott if he favors keeping Florida’s minimum wage at $7.93 or raising it.

After bringing up his family’s money problems growing up, the multimillionaire governor said he does not support raising the minimum wage because he wants more jobs in the state. He cited a study by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

"I want more jobs. And that’s why I ran on 7 steps to 700,000 jobs. The CBO says that if we raise the minimum wage the way Charlie wants to do it, it would lose 500,000 jobs," Scott said. "I don’t want to lose those jobs."

The context here is important; Scott used the 500,000 number while talking about Florida jobs. As we'll see, that number applies nationwide.

Crist has said he would "fight every way I possibly can to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour." This mirrors an amount eyed by President Barack Obama, who has pushed to raise the federal minimum wage of $7.25 to $10.10 over two years. In 2016, it would be tied to inflation. (States can set their minimum wage higher than the federal rate, the minimum wage in Florida automatically increased in 2014 to $7.93 because it is tied to inflation.)

The CBO analyzed Obama’s proposal in a February 2014 report that provided a mixed bag of political talking points. It studied the effect of the policy on the national workforce and did not provide a state-by-state breakdown.

People who support raising the minimum wage can highlight the CBO finding that 16.5 million low-wage workers would earn more money a week under Obama’s proposal.

People who don’t like raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10, like Scott, can point to the fact that CBO said it would cost the country an estimated 500,000 jobs as businesses shoulder new employee costs.

This figure is not precise. The analysts at CBO cushioned their findings by saying the number of lost jobs from the $10.10 hourly policy could range from a "very slight" decrease in employment to a loss of 1 million jobs.

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Back then, a top White House economic adviser pushed back on the findings, telling reporters the CBO report "goes outside of the consensus view" of economists who study the influence of higher minimum wages on employment.

The Scott campaign directed us to a page for communities on Crist’s website, African Americans for Charlie. The page says he will increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for state workers and contractors "and fight to raise it for all Floridians."

Scott campaign spokeswoman Jackie Schutz acknowledged the CBO report applies to federal minimum wage workers, not just Florida minimum-wage earners, but the effect of job losses "would certainly happen in Florida."

In Crist’s "Fair Shot Florida," a policy road map for middle-class families, he said he will immediately urge the Legislature to pass a minimum wage of $10.10 -- a nod to how powerless he is to actually enact this for all Floridians, as it would likely not be popular in the state’s Republican-dominated Legislature.

Our ruling

Scott said, "The CBO says if we raise the minimum wage the way Charlie wants to do it, it would lose 500,000 jobs." 

Scott is referencing the CBO’s rough estimate for the effect of Obama’s plan to lift the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour on employment. It’s not necessarily what would happen, as he said, but what could happen. In other words, a loss of 500,000 jobs is the agency’s best guess, and other possibilities include a slight effect on jobs to about 1 million lost jobs.

More importantly, its analysis pertained to the country as a whole. Scott's comments came in a discussion about Florida jobs, which means the number is being taken out of context. 

The average Floridian may not know that the CBO report does not apply to "the way Charlie wants" to raise the minimum wage in Florida. Florida’s minimum wage is slightly higher at $7.93 in 2014.

The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context. We rate it Half True.

Our Sources

PunditFact, "Rick Santorum: Minimum wage increase would cost 500,000 jobs," May 11, 2014

PunditFact, " ‘Marketplace’ host Kai Ryssdal talks CBO report on minimum wage and lost jobs," Feb. 20, 2014

Charlie Crist Facebook post

Context Florida, "Charlie Crist: Minimum wages, minimum economy," Dec. 31, 2013

Tampa Bay Times, "Steve Bousquet column: Rick Scott, Charlie Crist and the minimum wage,"

Congressional Budget Office, "The effects of a minimum-wage increase on employment and family income," February 2014

Washington Post, "CBO: Obama’s minimum wage plan would cost jobs but help millions," Feb. 18, 2014

Tampa Bay Times, "Crist receives union support," July 31, 2014

Fair Shot Florida, Part One, accessed Oct. 10, 2014

Interview with Valerie Wilson, Economic Policy Institute economist, Oct. 10, 2014

Interview with Kevin Cate, Charlie Crist spokesman, Oct. 10, 2014

Interview with Jackie Schutz, Rick Scott spokeswoman, Oct. 10, 2014

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