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A hike to $15 minimum wage could cost the state jobs

Protesters took part in a National Day of Action Fight for a $15 demonstration outside the Massachusetts State House.
Protesters took part in a National Day of Action Fight for a $15 demonstration outside the Massachusetts State House. (Jonathan Wiggs /GlobeStaff

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A $15 minimum wage would drive up compensation costs for three-quarters of the state’s employers, according to two recent surveys conducted by the Associated Industries of Massachusetts.

The employer association found that 13 percent of companies surveyed employed people at $10 an hour (the former state minimum wage, which went to $11 an hour on Jan. 1); 24 percent had workers that earned between $10-$15 an hour; and 34 percent paid people just above $15 and would have to boost their earnings to compensate for lower wages rising.

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“We will employ fewer hourly employees at higher minimum wages,” one survey respondent wrote. “Each dollar increase costs our company $1.5 million per year.”

An increase to $15 an hour could force employers to put off hiring or possibly leave the state, according to AIM, which emphasizes a need for better skills training and education over higher wages.

“Minimum-wage increases impose an arbitrary standard of value on entry-level jobs, disproportionately burdening small businesses while creating no long-term improvement in living standards for people at the lower end of the wage scale,” AIM spokesman Christopher Geehern wrote in a blog post Tuesday.

Raise Up Massachusetts, the coalition of workers’ advocates pushing for a $15 minimum, noted that increasing the minimum wage contributes to the economy from the bottom up.

“Low-wage workers and their families spend their wage increases in the local economy, and that economic activity helps business maintain existing jobs and add new ones,” the coalition said in a statement put out in response to the AIM surveys. “Since the last minimum wage bill was passed in June 2014, the Massachusetts economy has added more than 150,000 jobs, and unemployment is at its lowest rate since before the Great Recession.”

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Katie Johnston can be reached at katie.johnston@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ktkjohnston.