Latest study: Seattle’s wage law lifted restaurant pay without shrinking jobs

Seattle’s minimum-wage law has led to higher pay for restaurant workers without affecting the overall number of jobs in the industry, according to a new study from the University of California, Berkeley.

Seattle’s minimum-wage law has led to higher pay for restaurant workers without affecting the overall number of jobs in the industry, according to a new study from the University of California, Berkeley.

Indeed, employment in food service from 2015 to 2016 was not affected, “even among the limited-service restaurants, many of them franchisees, for whom the policy was most binding,” according to the study, led by Berkeley economics professor Michael Reich.

The minimum-wage law, which took effect in April 2015, raises the minimum wage gradually until it reaches $15 by 2021 at the latest.

Larger employers, and those that do not pay toward employees’ medical benefits, are required to start paying $15 sooner than small businesses and those that pay the benefits.

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Currently, the minimum wage in the city ranges from $11 for small businesses that pay medical benefits (and/or if the employee earns $2 an hour in tips) to $15 for large businesses that don’t.

It can be hard to separate what impact the wage law had on employment in Seattle versus the effect of the city’s white-hot economy and tight labor market, but “we do our best,” Reich said.

The study compares the wage and employment growth rates in Seattle to a control group of counties, in Washington state and across the U.S., that had similar growth rates as Seattle in the years shortly before the minimum-wage law took effect.

The control-group counties did not have minimum-wage increases other than being indexed to the inflation rate. The counties were chosen using a computer algorithm, Reich said.

A city-commissioned report by University of Washington researchers last year reached a more mixed…

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