TEEN JOBS: Blame Minimum Wage

Teens will have a tough time finding a job this summer (“Teens learn it’s a tough job market,” Tribune, May 10), and one often overlooked reason is the wage mandate that creates a barrier between teens who want to work and employers who want to hire.

Between July 2007 and July 2009, Congress increased the federal minimum wage 40 percent. Recent research from Ball State University attributes the loss of 310,000 teenage part-time jobs to this wage hike. Because minimum wages raise the cost to hire and train entry-level employees like teens, employers are forced to cut staff hours or positions. Over time, they are forced to replace “full-service” positions with “self-service” and “automated.”

These unemployed teens are deprived of the valuable “invisible curriculum” that comes from reporting to a supervisor, showing up on time, and working with others as part of a team. Research from Northeastern University found that teens without job opportunities – especially economically disadvantaged teens – are also more likely to drop out of high school or get tangled up in the criminal justice system.

Michael Saltsman
Research Fellow, Employment Policies Institute, Washington, DC