Thousands in county could benefit from minimum-wage measure

EVERETT — If voters pass Initiative 1433 on Nov. 8, how many workers will see a higher minimum wage?

The initiative proposes to raise the minimum wage — currently $9.47 an hour — incrementally to $13.50 by 2020, and to guarantee all workers in Washington receive paid sick leave, earning one hour off for every 40 hours worked.

Supporters for I-1433 have poured millions of dollars into Raise Up Washington, the yes campaign. And what little polling has been done on the proposal indicates a majority of voters are in support.

If the initiative passes, it would affect several hundred thousand workers in Washington.

The state’s Employment Security Department analyzed wage records to shed some light on the issue. The analysis looked at all non-federal jobs covered by unemployment insurance. Two industries had to be excluded due to problems with the data: private household workers (such as nannies) and certain home health care workers.

In 2015, about 100,000 workers were paid at or close to $9.47 an hour in Washington, said Scott Bailey, a regional economist with employment security.

He cautions that the analysis does not show how workers might be affected if the minimum wage is increased. Employers might offset higher wages by investing in labor-saving machinery. They could increase prices or cut profits. The possibilities seemingly are as endless as a person’s imagination.

The quarterly average number of jobs paying the minimum wage was 153,010 statewide. However, many were part-time and short-term. In terms of hours worked, there was the equivalent of 50,790 full-time jobs paying minimum wage.

Snohomish County had about 7,000 workers in minimum wage jobs, many working part-time, Bailey found.

The county had the equivalent of 3,772 full-time jobs paying minimum wage in 2015. That was 1.7 percent of employment in the county.

However, more than minimum wage jobs would be affected if I-1433 passes.

In 2015, the state had 719,856 low-wage jobs that could be affected by the initiative. In terms of hours on the clock, they were equivalent to 339,729 full-time jobs. More than half of those — 195,886 — were in King, Pierce, Snohomish, Spokane and Yakima counties.

In Snohomish County, there were 55,097 low-wage jobs, which were equivalent to 26,607 full-time jobs.

The number of potentially affected jobs is big. But it represents a small portion of wages paid in Washington. Low-wage jobs made up only 4.4 percent of all payroll earnings in 2015.

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; Twitter: @dcatchpole.

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