Seattle Min Wage Hikes Crushing The Poor: 6,700 Jobs Lost, Annual Wages Down $1,500 - UofW Study

Just last week we noted that McDonalds launched plans to replace 2,500 human cashiers with digital kiosks like the ones below (see: McDonalds Is Replacing 2,500 Human Cashiers With Digital Kiosks: Here Is Its Math):


Of course, no matter how much anecdotal and/or hard evidence is presented to liberals on the negative consequences on higher minimum wages they simply can't be convinced it's a bad idea.  Somehow, the basic economic concept that raising the price of good (i.e. wages) would somehow destroy demand (i.e. employment levels) for that good just does not compute in the minds of progressives.

Never the less, below is yet another study from economists at the University of Washington that reveals some fairly startling takeaways about Seattle's minimum wage.  Per the chart below, minimum wages in Seattle increased from $11 in 2015 to $13 in 2016 and $15 in 2017 for large employers.


To our total shock, the study found that higher minimum wages caused a 9.4% reduction to total hours worked by low-skilled workers, or roughly 14 million hours per year.  Given that a full-time employee works 2,080 hours per year, that's equivalent to just over 6,700 full-time equivalents who have lost their jobs, just in the city of Seattle, courtesy of moronic politicians who don't seem to grasp basic mathematical concepts.

Our preferred estimates suggest that the Seattle Minimum Wage Ordinance caused hours worked by low-skilled workers (i.e., those earning under $19 per hour) to fall by 9.4% during the three quarters when the minimum wage was $13 per hour, resulting in a loss of 3.5 million hours worked per calendar quarter. Alternative estimates show the number of low-wage jobs declined by 6.8%, which represents a loss of more than 5,000 jobs. These estimates are robust to cutoffs other than $19.45  A 3.1% increase in wages in jobs that paid less than $19 coupled with a 9.4% loss in hours yields a labor demand elasticity of roughly -3.0, and this large elasticity estimate is robust to other cutoffs.

Adding insult to injury, pay hikes weren't nearly enough to offset lost hours...

Importantly, the lost income associated with the hours reductions exceeds the gain associated with the net wage increase of 3.1%. Using data in Table 3, we compute that the average low-wage employee was paid $1,897 per month. The reduction in hours would cost the average employee $179 per month, while the wage increase would recoup only $54 of this loss, leaving a net loss of $125 per month (6.6%), which is sizable for a low-wage worker.

To our complete 'surprise', the study found that demand for low-wage jobs is more elastic than prior studies from more liberal institutions may have suggested.  Shockingly, low-wage jobs are apparently particularly susceptible to automation...who knew?

These results suggest a fundamental rethinking of the nature of low-wage work. Prior elasticity estimates in the range from zero to -0.2 suggest there are few suitable substitutes for low-wage employees, that firms faced with labor cost increases have little option but to raise their wage bill. Seattle data show – even in simple first differences – that payroll expenses on workers earning under $19 per hour either rose minimally or fell as the minimum wage increased from $9.47 to $13 in just over nine months. An elasticity of -3 suggests that low-wage labor is a more substitutable, expendable factor of production. The work of least-paid workers might be performed more efficiently by more skilled and experienced workers commanding a substantially higher wage. This work could, in some circumstances, be automated. In other circumstances, employers may conclude that the work of least-paid workers need not be done at all.

Here is a look at the estimated percentage change in hours worked...


...and total hours.


Conclusion: Keep up the good fight, Bernie.  With policies like these, Nancy Pelosi may be the least of Democrats' worries.