One Year Later: A Stronger Seattle

| Sep 23, 2013

Seattle’s paid sick days law was signed two years ago today, and a new report reveals some great news about the strength of the city’s job market and its businesses since the law took effect one year ago.

The report, Paid Sick Days and the Seattle Economy, was released by the Main Street Alliance of Washington. It looks at economic data for Seattle, King County, Washington state and the nation as a whole in the year following the September 2012 implementation of Seattle’s Paid Sick and Safe Leave Ordinance. It pays particular attention to food service and retail businesses because it was expected that they would be disproportionately impacted by the law.

The results are terrific. The Seattle metropolitan area’s businesses and economy are doing better than they were before the law. According to the new report, the county in which Seattle is located, King County, is recovering from the recession at a faster pace than the state of Washington and the nation as a whole. In addition:

  • Its unemployment rate is lower than the unemployment rates of the state or the country; in July, it was 5.1 percent, compared with 6.9 percent for the state and 7.4 percent for the nation.
  • The number of food service and retails jobs has increased. There are 3,200 more bar and restaurant jobs and 7,200 more retail jobs in King County when compared to the same period the year prior.
  • During the first two quarters following the law’s implementation, the county added 925 new businesses, including 142 in retail and 13 in food service.
  • Seattle has maintained or slightly increased its share of King County firms and sales, meaning employers are staying in the city.
  • And the Seattle area’s inflation rate is lower than it was the year before the paid sick days law took effect.

These findings point to a clear conclusion: Seattle’s paid sick days law has not caused any harm to the city, despite its opponents’ doomsday predictions. Businesses have not drastically cut jobs, fled the city, or raised prices for consumers. As is the case with similar laws across the country, the sky has not fallen. In fact, the local economy and businesses are stronger.

This conclusion is consistent with studies of similar paid sick days laws in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. — the two cities that paved the way for Seattle. In the years following implementation of San Francisco’s law, job growth in the city was consistently higher than surrounding counties. And this summer, an audit of D.C.’s law found that it has not had an adverse effect on businesses.

As lawmakers from Tacoma, Washington, to Jersey City, New Jersey, consider paid sick days laws, they should look at Seattle’s experience. The number of cities that have established this common sense standard continues to grow, and the evidence is in: Paid sick days benefit workers, their families, businesses and economies.