New Research On Seattle's Minimum Wage Hike Shows “The Sky Has Not Fallen”
University Of Washington Researchers Found Seattle Job Market “Exceptionally Strong” While City Raised The Minimum Wage
Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH
Researchers at the University of Washington found the Seattle, WA, economy continued on a path of strong growth after the city began to raise the minimum wage -- counter to dire predictions from right-wing media.
Seattle Weekly reported that Seattle’s economy has not been met with “devastation” since the city raised the minimum wage to $11 per hour on July 25, according to researchers at the University of Washington, who found that the Seattle economy saw a “boom in job growth” over the last 18 months. Seattle began phasing in its minimum wage increase in April 2015, raising wages to $11 per hour. The Washington cities of Seattle and SeaTac are in the process of phasing in the highest municipal minimum wages in the country -- $15 per hour. Researchers found that from mid-2014 to the end of 2015, “the Seattle labor market was exceptionally strong” and the city’s “job growth rate tripled the national average.” Seattle Weekly reported that the researchers’ findings debunk conservative predictions that the increase “would ‘devastate’ small businesses” and harm low-wage workers:
The sky has not fallen. That’s the takeaway from a new report on the effects of Seattle’s newly heightened minimum wage.
“Wages have risen, businesses have withstood the increase, work opportunities have declined modestly, [and] average earnings have changed by no more than a few dollars a week,” said the UW minimum wage research team, led by Jacob Vigdor, in a presentation to city council this morning. This outcome stands in stark contrast against the rhetoric used when the new minimum wage was being debated in 2013 and ‘14, when opponents claimed it would “devastate” small businesses.
In fact, no such devastation has occurred. This has been clear for a while—Seattle’s minimum wage increase began April last year—and the new report from the UW research team further confirms it. “The City’s low-wage workers did relatively well after the minimum wage increased, but largely because of the strong regional economy,” the report says. “Seattle’s low wage workers would have experienced almost equally positive trends if the minimum wage had not increased.”
The report shows that the minimum wage increase was not the source of the economic boom but also that the Seattle economy has not seen a major impact from the minimum wage increase. The researchers “caution that these results show only the short-run impact of Seattle’s increase to a wage of $11/hour” and that it will take many years for the full effect of raising the minimum wage to be seen.
Conservative media smears against Seattle's minimum wage increase started soon after the city approved an ordinance raising the minimum wage to $15 over the course of a three- to seven-year period. In July 2015, Fox News' Dan Springer falsely claimed that Seattle was facing "unintended consequences" from the wage increase, with some low-income workers attempting to game the system so as to remain eligible for welfare benefits. In August, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) used cherry-picked data to claim Seattle's minimum wage increase "has started having a negative effect on restaurant jobs." Fox Business host Stuart Varney echoed AEI's claim a month later on his show, weeks after the specific job loss claim had been debunked. Other right-wing outlets, including The Daily Caller and Investor's Business Daily, have combed through municipal jobs data in Seattle to exaggerate alleged side effects of the minimum wage.
Right-wing media are staunchly opposed to increasing the minimum wage and dedicated to promoting the myth that wage increases result in job losses, despite a wealth of evidence showing that minimum wage increases have a negligible effect on employment.