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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

UW study: Seattle’s higher minimum wage impact mixed

In the 18 months after Seattle raised the minimum wage to $11 an hour, wages went up, but not solely because of the change in the law, a University of Washington study concludes. Some of the increase was a result of a strong economy.

It may have slightly decreased the number of low-wage jobs in Seattle, and resulted in those employees working fewer hours per week

"Increased wages were offset by modest reductions in employment and hours, thereby limiting the extent to which higher wages directly translated into higher average earnings," a team of researchers concluded in a study  likely to be quoted by both sides in the coming campaign over a statewide initiative to make similar increases.

The Seattle City Council commissioned the study, and received the report Monday. Raise Up Washington, the campaign behind Initiative 1433, trumpeted its findings even before the report was released, saying it shows wages went up, more jobs were added and more businesses opened in Seattle. 

But the report itself is not unfailingly positive about the effects of the higher minimum wage on Seattle. Low-wage workers throughout the region are seeing more jobs and more hours, but in Seattle, they may be lagging behind the rest of the region. 

A worker earning less than $11 an hour before the city passed the ordinance in 2014 was averaging $11.14 ah hour by the end of 2015, up from $9.96 in mid 2014. But about 73 cents was a result of the ordinance and the rest could be attributed to the economy, researchers said.

But complaints by opponents of a minimum wage hike that it will put companies out of business are not backed up by the study, either. 

"We do not find compelling evidence that the minimum wage has caused significant increases in business failure rates," researchers said. 

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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