Seattle’s decision to hike up minimum wage to $15/ hour was a bold proposal from the beginning and is just now starting to play out. The most obvious concern surrounding this new wage level is that fewer people will be able to find jobs at all. Seattle stated before the enactment of this policy that they understood that consequence and were willing to accept it because those who did have jobs would be earning a “living wage” and they thought that outweighed the spike in entry-level unemployment.
Now, as this experiment begins to evolve, new issues are starting to arise such as the amount of hours workers can get at this new wage level. Currently, Seattle’s minimum wage ranges between $10.50 and $13 an hour, depending on the size of the firm, that number will gradually increase until 2021 and at that time it will be $15 everywhere.
The point being, many Seattle companies aren’t even halfway there as far as wage increases go and negative impacts are already becoming apparent. Minimum wage workers are finding it harder to find jobs; Seattle’s unemployment rate has increased over half a percentage point since this policy was proclaimed. This same chunk of the workforce are seeing their hours decrease as a result of their employer scrambling to keep their variable costs constant. Companies are closing earlier, opening later and decreasing the number of employees working per shift in order to combat this wage spike, they simply cannot afford it. If you managed to keep your position at your job and still work the same amount of hours as before the wage raise than you are obviously making more money and this policy is great. Unfortunately, that is not the case for many people trying to survive off of their minimum wage income.
This entire process is being monitored closely across the country, as Seattle is the first major city to implement such drastic change and the preliminary results are less than promising. Other cities are watching and waiting for a conclusion so they can make decisions about the possibility of enacting a similar plan in their own cities. That being said, the findings aren’t nearly as catastrophic as many had predicted, there hasn’t been a massive swing up or down but most analysts are in agreement that so far this higher minimum wage rate is hurting those it was intended to help. A little.