New UW study finds Seattle's higher minimum wage hurts workers

KOMO File photo

SEATTLE - A newly released study from the University of Washington says Seattle's increased minimum wage is actually hurting workers. But already others are coming forward to say that the study's findings are flawed.

The UW research paper studied the effects of the first and second phase-in of the Seattle minimum wage ordinance, which raised the minimum wage from $9.47 to $11 per hour in 2015 and to $13 per hour in 2016.

According to the study, the second wage hike to $13 actually cut the number of hours worked in low-wage jobs by around 9 percent, while hourly wages in such jobs increased by around 3 percent. As a result, low-wage employees’ earnings were reduced by an average of $125 per month.

The study also says there would be about 5,000 more low-wage jobs in the city without the law.

The UW research runs counter to a study released last week by the University of California at Berkeley, which found that Seattle's minimum wage law has boosted pay for restaurant workers without costing jobs.

Meanwhile, the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute issued a statement Monday questioning the methodology of the UW research, calling it "fundamentally flawed."

"(The) study ... suffers from a number of data and methodological problems that undermine and cast doubt on its conclusions," the statement says, adding that the UW researchers calculated employment losses "that are well outside the bounds of most published research on the minimum wage (and) contains several notable flaws that cast significant doubt on its findings."

The conflicting studies are certain to add to the debate as activists around the country push for increases in local, state and federal minimum wages.

In 2014 Seattle became one of the first cities to adopt a law aiming for a $15 minimum wage.

Seattle's law gave small businesses employing fewer than 500 people seven years to phase it in. Large employers had to do so over three or four years, depending on whether they offer health insurance to their employees.

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