In spring 2016, Oregon passed legislation to notch its minimum wage from $9.75/hour to nearly $15—in the Portland area, at least—by 2022. Plaid Pantry’s then-CEO called that 50 percent graduated raise a “job killer,” predicting the chain would have to reduce staff by 20 percent and close 14 of its stores. (Three years later, its number of staff and stores remains stable.) State economist Josh Lehner says national data shows such hikes haven’t fueled higher unemployment. “The more nuanced discussion,” he says, “is looking at other effects.” He means the potential for reduced hours, slower job growth, and rejiggering within industries—like retail, hospitality, and health care—that rely on low-wage workers.

By the Numbers

July 1, 2019 Date when Oregon’s minimum wage jumps another 50 cents across the state

June 30, 2023 Date when Senate Bill 1523’s seven years of specific wage hikes will tap out

$11 New hourly minimum wage in 18 “nonurban” counties (largely in eastern and southern Oregon)

$11.25 New hourly minimum wage in 15 “standard” counties (in the state’s northwest corner and around Ashland and Roseburg)

$12.50 New hourly minimum wage in three Portland metro area counties (Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington)

$26K Gross annual salary for someone employed, fulltime, at $12.50/hour

1 Household size that can be supported, in Oregon, by an MIT-estimated annual “living wage” salary of $27K

$14.75 Hourly minimum wage in the Portland metro area as of July 1, 2022, with subsequent annual increases pegged (as they were from 2004 to 2016) to inflation

9 States or districts with a minimum wage of $11/hour or higher as of July 1, 2019: D.C. ($14), MA ($12), WA ($12), NY ($11.10–15), CO ($11.10), CA ($11–12), OR ($11–12.50), ME ($11), AZ ($11)

“[Portland] restaurants are having to figure this out. The margin for error is razor-thin, and part of that is the mandatory minimum wage. It will change how the restaurant world works: it’ll be more expensive for customers, counter service will grow, larger restaurants will be fewer and far between. Food carts, and pop-ups—there will be more. Maybe it’s a good thing. Maybe it makes people more creative.” — Nate Tilden, Portland restaurateur (Olympia Provisions, Clyde Common, Bar Casa Vale, etc.)

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