Job And Business Growth Strong Under Seattle’s Paid Sick Days Law

Preliminary data on job growth, new businesses, and business sales show no evidence of negative impacts from Seattle’s paid sick days law, which went into effect in September 1, 2012, according to an analysis by The Main Street Alliance of Washington.

Job growth was actually stronger in the city in 2013 after the ordinance went into effect than during the first part of 2012, including in retail and food service jobs that were particularly impacted. There were 7,200 more jobs in retail and 3,200 more in food services and drinking places in King County, where Seattle is located, during the first seven months of this year compared to the same period last year. While there is no jobs data at the city level, it’s likely that most of those jobs were in Seattle, as half of food service jobs and nearly 40 percent of retail jobs were in the city in 2011. The county had also more than recovered the jobs it lost in the recession by July 2013 even though the rest of the state still hasn’t, and its unemployment rate was 5.1 percent compared to the statewide rate of 6.9 percent.

There is city-level on businesses for the first two quarters that the law was in effect, however, which show that the city added new businesses and sales increased. And Seattle’s share of county firms and sales either continued or increased in retail and food and drink places. “No pattern of business flight from Seattle is evident,” the report’s authors write.


“This preliminary look at available data shows no widespread negative economic impact as some opponents of the ordinance feared,” the report concludes.

The evidence from Seattle mirrors that from other cities with similar laws. A recent audit of Washington, DC’s ordinance similarly found no negative effect on business. San Francisco’s has had little negative impact while enjoying strong business support and was also found to have spurred job growth. Connecticut’s law has also come with little cost and big upsides.

Other places may soon see similar benefits. Fights to enact paid sick days laws have cropped up in Tacoma, WA; Jersey City, NJ; statewide in New Jersey; and Massachusetts. They would join Seattle, San Francisco, and Connecticut as well as New York City and Portland, OR, which have such laws on the books.