Seattle unemployment - Frank Groffie's miscellany

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Here's something you won't see covered by the lamestream media: the rate of unemployment in Seattle. Why is that important? Unemployment in Seattle rose recently. Coincidentally, the city is also on a path to hike the minimum wage to $15 per hour in steps. California is on the verge of phasing in a minimum wage of $15/hr over the next few years. Bernie Sanders includes a $15 national minimum wage among his promises in his presidential campaign.

Economists, for decades, have expressed a consensus that a higher minimum wage leads to higher unemployment. Prices of, say, restaurant meals rise; fewer people patronize restaurants; and layoffs result. A factory owner installs more robots: layoffs. A store owner decides it isn't worth it to pay someone $15/hr to sweep the aisles or keep the merchandise neatly arranged; he does it himself, or simply doesn't hire a kid off the street and thereby leaves the job undone. Leftists scoff at all that: it just feels so good to make people richer or redistribute wealth with a wave of the legislative wand.

Anyway, back to Seattle: Seattle hiked the minimum wage from $9.47 to $11.00 in April 2015 and to $13 in January 2016 and will increase it in additional steps to $15 by 2021. Check out Seattle's unemployment rate while the minimum wage rose from $9.47 to $13. The graph below (from shows data through January 2016, the last month available as of this writing on March 31, 2016.

Here (below) is an annotated version (my annotations):

There's a recurring dip in unemployment in March and April of each year and an increase every following May and June. After adjusting for this statistical quirk in April 2015, unemployment increased about 1.2 percentage points since the hike in the minimum wage, which sounds like little, but from a base rate of about 3.5%, it's an increase of 34%. Regardless, I don't need to superimpose any least-squares regression on the graph to make the upward trend any clearer. And it began on April 1, 2015, and appears to be on an accelerating trajectory.

What do the traditional print media have to say about this? In one instance, nothing. Blanca Torres, writing for the Seattle Times on March 31, 2016, under the headline "A year in, ‘the sky is not falling’ from Seattle’s minimum-wage hike" cites no employment or unemployment statistics, even though they're readily available. Instead, she presents her readers with anecdotes of low-wage workers in Seattle (

Michael Hiltzik, in his column in the Los Angeles Times of February 23, 2016, at least presents statistics: this very inconvenient graph, below, of employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Follow closely: this is employment now, not unemployment. Note the loss of 11,000 jobs in Seattle since April 2015, the worst loss since the Great Recession.

Hiltzik dismisses this trend as merely "bad data". "It's aimed at counting the number of employed people living in the sample area (in this case, Seattle), not the number of jobs." That's a stretch: The number of employed people is way down, but the number of jobs is what? The same or greater? There's suddenly an unusual abundance of unfilled jobs in Seattle? Nice try at obfuscation. His column in its entirety is at

It's still early. But the 8 months of data since the hike in the minimum wage indicate a disturbing correlation that the lefties are at pains to wave away or ignore. Just watch as the April 2016 data roll in, probably in July, showing a drop in Seattle unemployment: the media will be all over that story, and you won't hear anything then about "bad data".

I wrote all of what appears above in early 2016.

It's now June 2017. As part of Seattle's experiment in boosting the minimum wage in the city, an independent, academic study was to be performed to assess the results in terms of wages and employment. Results of the study were reported in an article by Janet I. Tu, Seattle Times business reporter, in the Seattle Times [1]. Evidently, the story was buried in the business section of the paper. It didn't make it to the front page, naturally, because, the findings didn't comport with the left-wing narrative typically presented by the left-wing mainstream press, which includes, of course, the Seattle Times. Excerpts from the report by University of Washington researchers include the following:

"...boosting pay in low-wage jobs by about 3 percent since 2014 but also resulting in a 9 percent reduction in hours worked in such jobs. That resulted in a 6 percent drop in what employers collectively pay — and what workers earn — for those low-wage jobs."

"For an average low-wage worker in Seattle, that translates into a loss of about $125 per month per job."

"... there are about 5,000 fewer low-wage jobs in the city than there would have been without the law."

I'm not cherry-picking: Those are the conclusions of the U. of W. report. Note how science, even social science, can actually work: set forth a hypothesis (a mandated [by govt.] minimum wage will impoverish low-skill workers); perform an analysis; and check whether the hypothesis is confirmed, which, in this case, is yes.

Note also how my eariler (early 2016) hypothesis, that the lamestream media (the traditional left-wing print media) would ignore or distort this story, is also confirmed. The New York Slimes, er, Times, in a review of the very same report by the U. of W. gave this baffling summary:  

" seems safe to conclude that Seattle has tolerated its minimum wage increase well and that, by extension, other strong economies could do so" [2].

What utter left-wing garbage, what stretching, from those who call themselves The Paper of Record, the Slimes, er, Times. I'm reminded of one reason I dropped my subscription to my local newspaper. An online search regarding the Seattle minimimum-wage issue yields mostly, in addition to what I've presented above, only a smattering of other desperate posts by journalists connected to various lefty, redistributionist (Marxist?) domains that include Inequality.whatever.

I sometimes wonder if politics in the U.S. is approaching an inflection point like that of the middle 19th century: the times have a sort of civil-war feel to it. If I may leave readers of this page on a positive note, I'll say this; ponder it: Freedom. Freedom to work for an agree-upon wage, freedom to ... . You fill in the blank.

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