It looks like December may have come with a gift for the movement to raise minimum wage. The latest data out of Seattle shows that the city’s unemployment rate has hit a low of 3.4 percent, according to The Big Picture financial blog. These new stats could be a major blow to opponents of minimum wage increases that say that jobs will be lost as wages rise.
Seattle became emblematic of Fight for $15 — the labor movement to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour or a living wage — after it became the first major city to pass the increase in 2014. Some critics were quick to paint Seattle’s model of wage hikes for low-wage workers as a failed job-killer when job losses were reported in February.
However, a study by the University of Washington later showed that job loss after the increase has been marginal and that the effort to raise the minimum wage has largely had its intended impact: bringing low-income workers closer to being able afford their basic needs.
This is good news for activists in the Fight for $15 movement who have been vocal about increasing minimum wage in cities like Detroit, Chicago, and Houston. States like Washington, Arizona, and Colorado voted to raise it in the November elections. Protests in Baltimore have resumed to push the city’s newly elected Democratic city council to pass legislation to raise the minimum wage, which previously failed in August by one vote.
Many celebrities and politicians have attached themselves for the movement in an attempt to transform traditional wisdom about the economic consequence of raising wages, which cautions that small business will be unable to handle the change and large corporations will balance opportunities to pay workers more with large layoffs.
President-elect Donald Trump hasn’t officially made a statement on the movement. However, his Labor Secretary nominee, Andy Puzder, has been seen as an enemy to the labor movement and an opponent to raising the minimum wage.