No, Seattle's rising minimum wage isn't producing a measurable loss of jobs. Not only that, but two other factors will make it difficult to pinpoint a negative effect from the step-up toward $15-an-hour.
Some readers sent me an editorial from the New York Post entitled, “How the $15 wage is already killing Seattle jobs.” That’s a neat trick considering the city’s minimum wage has yet to step up to that amount, but no matter.
The Murdoch-owned tabloid relies on talking points from Mark Perry from the American Enterprise Institute. He produced a paper last month with seemingly authoritative charts and data showing a jobs drop-off beginning almost exactly when the City Council passed the higher wage last year.
Except it’s garbage data, as I have written before and the LA Times’ Michael Hiltzik did a superb job of explaining all the reasons why. I urge you to read his column.
We don’t know the effect of the wage increase yet, and we may not be able to pinpoint it for the city for several years.
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That doesn’t mean the higher minimum won’t affect jobs. Low-skilled employees are always at risk. Automation for some tasks potentially becomes more cost-effective.
But following this logic, full employment could only be ensured if workers paid employers for the privilege of giving their labor. No connection between higher minimum wages and unemployment exists. And adjusted for inflation, the federal minimum peaked in 1968 and has been losing purchasing power ever since. At the same time, low-wage jobs have proliferated while middle-wage jobs have hollowed out and the ladder up has lost rungs.
Now two more factors will complicate an honest assessment of the rising minimum wage in Seattle. First, the extra-wet winter tamped down traffic for at least some restaurants. Second, plenty of new restaurants have opened over the past few months. A city can only support so many eateries, so when some close will it be because of higher wages, or cannibalization from the new crop of competitors?
So it is too soon to tell. Which won’t stop the ideologically driven scare stories. Let the reader beware.
Today’s Econ Haiku:
We killed the subway
But light rail will reach the U
It’s a forward thrust