Seattle’s Jobless Rate Drops Below Four Percent in September

Seattle choo-choo-chooses a higher minimum wage! (God, I'm sorry.

Seattle choo-choo-chooses a higher minimum wage! (God, I’m sorry.)

Mike Rosenberg at the Seattle Times writes:

For the first time in more than eight years, the Seattle-area unemployment rate has dipped below 4 percent, a milestone in the region’s continued economic resurgence, according to new figures released Wednesday.

September’s 3.9 percent unemployment rate for the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area is down from 4.1 percent a month prior, and 4.6 percent a year ago.

It is vitally important to note that we didn’t raise the minimum wage in Seattle so we could drive unemployment numbers down to nothing. Unemployment rises and falls in a dynamic economy, and Seattle’s unemployment rate will undoubtedly rise with the next recession. We raised the minimum wage because Seattle believes in inclusivity. The minimum wage was way too low, which was removing people from the economy. When everyone prospers, we all prosper more and the economy is strengthened in a positive feedback loop.

But this latest dip in unemployment is important because it refutes, yet again, the position that if we were to raise the minimum wage, restaurants would close in Seattle and automation would take all our jobs away and nobody would ever open a new business here. The sky has not fallen. (And now that some time has passed, people who were on the wrong side of the minimum wage fight will try to move the goalposts, claiming that nobody threatened those sorts of things. We can’t allow them to do that.  They most certainly did claim they’d never open new restaurants. Some argued that we’d lose a quarter of all restaurants downtown if the wage went up.)

We do not live in a restaurant-free hellhole. We are not scavenging for scraps in the empty husk of the downtown McDonald’s. The city is doing just fine, thanks. At some point, you have to apply Occam’s Razor to those threats and consider the source: maybe the restaurant owners who threaten apocalypse with every minimum wage hike are simply doing so because they don’t want to pay their employees more money?

Now, some might argue that Seattle would be doing even better if we didn’t raise the minimum wage. That argument is pretty dumb. Sure, we could goose unemployment numbers lower if we got rid of the minimum wage entirely, but then we’d be expecting those employees making $7, or $6, or $5 dollars an hour to figure out how to survive as human beings in Seattle in 2016. In fact, because that would literally be impossible, we’d likely be paying more in government programs for housing and food to subsidize low-wage employers.

So yes, the unemployment numbers are a great sign for Seattle. But they’re not just great because they mean more Seattleites are working — they’re great because they demonstrate that an economy doesn’t have to be a race to the bottom in order to succeed. Seattle is racing to the top by ensuring that even our lowest-paid workers have enough money to be full participants in the economy, and the sky hasn’t fallen. In fact, we’re flying high.



Paul Constant

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