In this 2014 photo, a sign that reads “15 Good Work Seattle” is displayed below Seattle City Hall (right) and the Columbia Center building (left) after the Seattle City Council passed a $15 minimum wage measure. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

In this 2014 photo, a sign that reads “15 Good Work Seattle” is displayed below Seattle City Hall (right) and the Columbia Center building (left) after the Seattle City Council passed a $15 minimum wage measure. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Study: Seattle’s $15 minimum wage law hasn’t cut jobs

Associated Press

SEATTLE — Seattle’s $15-an-hour minimum wage law has boosted pay for restaurant workers without costing jobs, according to a study released Tuesday.

The report, from the University of California at Berkeley’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, is certain to add to the debate as activists around the country push for increases in local, state and federal minimum wages.

The report is the first in a series of reviews in which the institute is examining jurisdictions that have raised their minimum wages.

It focused on food service jobs, which some critics said could be disproportionately affected if increased wages forced restaurants to cut workers’ hours. Author Michael Reich said that hasn’t been the case.

The results should give more confidence to other jurisdictions around the country that have adopted $15-an-hour laws, he said.

“We were surprised,” Reich said Tuesday. “The results were so much clearer than is often the case.”

Last year, University of Washington researchers found mixed results for the Seattle law, which phases in an increase to $15 an hour by 2021. They said the law appeared to have slightly reduced the employment rate of low-wage workers even as it boosted pay.

But the new research, based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, determined that “employment effects” in restaurants “were not statistically distinguishable from zero.”

Meanwhile, every 10 percent minimum wage increase in Seattle — up to $13, which is as high as Seattle’s minimum went during the study period — increased wages nearly 1 percent in food services overall and 2.3 percent in limited-service restaurants, such as fast-food chains, the report said.

The pay increases weren’t higher because many restaurant employees were already making more than minimum wage, and because many full-serve restaurants appeared to be taking advantage of a “tip credit” that allowed them to pay workers who are routinely tipped less than they otherwise would have, Reich said.

The restaurant industry cautioned against extrapolating from the results how minimum wages would affect other cities, considering Seattle’s booming tech sector and economy generally.

“A study in one of the wealthiest cities in the U.S. does not reflect the impact drastic minimum wage increases could have across the country and should not be relied upon as this discussion continues – especially considering other studies have refuted these results,” Leslie Shedd, vice president of the National Restaurant Association, said in an emailed statement.

Tuesday marked the three-year anniversary of Seattle’s law, and Mayor Ed Murray welcomed the study.

“When we passed the $15 minimum wage, we were warned the economy would tank, jobs would dry up, and employers would flee,” Murray said. “Today, Seattle’s economy is the strongest it has ever been, unemployment is at a historically low rate, and employers are competing for employees.”

Seattle’s unemployment rate fell to 2.6 percent over the last two years, Murray said, and restaurants were among the city’s fastest growing industries, with more than 33,000 workers in 2016.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

The growing business district along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, looking west toward I-5. At lower left is the construction site of the new Amazon fulfillment center. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald)
Marysville-Arlington road improvements won’t happen at once

Traffic improvement projects near the Cascade Industrial Center will take shape over the next decade.

A line of Southwest Air Boeing 737 jets are parked near the company's production plant while being stored at Paine Field Friday, April 23, 2021, in Everett, Wash. Boeing reported its first quarterly profit since 2019 and revenue topped expectations, as the giant aircraft maker tries to dig out from the most difficult stretch in its history. Boeing said Wednesday, July 28, 2021, that it earned $567 million in the second quarter, compared with a $2.4 billion loss a year ago. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Boeing, for first time since 2019, has a profitable quarter

The earnings hint at a potential turnaround after one of the worst financial crises in the company’s history.

FILE - In this June 18, 2015, file photo, an Airbus A380 takes off for its demonstration flight at the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget airport, north of Paris. European planemaker Airbus reports that it made 1.87 billion euros profit in the second quarter. That's a relief after a loss in the same quarter a year ago during the depths of the pandemic shutdowns and travel restrictions. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)
Airbus, Boeing rivalry is back on as sales campaigns pick up

The improving outlook comes amid a travel reopening that’s gathering pace in some key markets.

Festive seafood specialties, modern delicacies with a beautiful presentation on the plate. Delicious dish - tender fish meat, with greens, lemon and vegetables. Cartoon vector.
You voted: The best seafood in Snohomish County

Even during a pandemic, people have their favorites

File - In this Sept. 24, 2014 file photo, smoke hangs over Reno-Tahoe International Airport as a plane takes off in Reno, Nev. A shortage of jet fuel, coupled with supply chain issues and an urgent demand from firefighting aircraft, continues to cause problems at airports around the West. In Nevada, state and federal lawmakers said they are investigating a possible shortage of jet fuel that could delay cargo delivery and passenger travel at Reno-Tahoe International Airport in the coming days. (AP Photo/Martha Irvine, File)
Airports in the US West dealing with shortage of jet fuel

Supply chain issues and an urgent demand from firefighting aircraft have combined to cause problems.

sandwich with ham, tomatoes, lettuce and toast isolated on white background, healthy breakfast, lunch
You voted: The best darn sandwich in Snohomish County

Even during a pandemic, people have their favorites

FILE - In this Aug. 26, 2019, file photo, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson speaks at a news conference in Seattle. Washington state sued Johnson & Johnson on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020, claiming the company was negligent when it used deceptive marketing to say the drugs were effective for treating pain and were unlikely to cause addiction. The lawsuit filed Thursday says the company that supplies raw materials used to make opiates drove the pharmaceutical industry to recklessly expand the production of the drugs. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Washington AG rejects opioids settlement, wants trial

The proposal would pay Washington about $527.5 million over 18 years if cities and counties opt in.

This photo provided by Blue Origin,   Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, exits the  Blue Origin's New Shepard capsule after it parachuted safely down to the launch area with passengers Mark Bezos, Oliver Daemen and Wally Funk, near Van Horn, Texas, Tuesday, July 20, 2021.  (Blue Origin via AP)
Blue Origin’s Bezos reaches space on 1st passenger flight

The Amazon founder is the second billionaire in just over a week to ride his own spacecraft.

The first flight for United Airlines servicing Paine Field taxis to the gate on March 31, 2019. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)
Come October, United Airlines will discontinue flights at Paine Field

The airline is one of two commercial carriers at the Everett airport. United flies to Denver.

Community leaders and officials break ground at the Port of Everett's Norton Terminal at the former Kimberly-Clark mill site along the waterfront Thursday morning in Everett on July 15, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Legacy of pollution makes Everett port project ‘challenging’

The former Kimberly-Clark mill site is nearing the end of a complex cleanup, part of a $36 million terminal project.

FILE - In this Oct. 28, 2020 file photo, a motorcyclist cruises past the Renton, Wash., Boeing plant where 737's are built. Boeing is temporarily lowering its delivery target for the 787 Dreamliner after discovering additional work that will need to be performed on the aircraft. The company said Tuesday, July 13, 2021, that the 787 production rate will temporarily be lower than five per month and will gradually return to that rate. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times via AP, File)
Boeing cuts production on the 787 to address a new flaw

The problem is on the forward pressure bulkhead, which keeps the plane’s interior pressurized.

State makes low interest loans available to small businesses

The state Department of Commerce is partnering with financial institutions and community-based organizations.