Wage Mandates Hurt Teens Seeking Jobs

Posted on June 08, 2010

Re: “Tri-City teens sing summer job blues” (online, 6-6).

Teens will have a tough time finding a job this summer, and one often overlooked reason is wage mandates that create 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.
At $8.55 per hour, Washington mandates the highest wage rate in the country. Minimum wages raise the cost of hiring and training entry-level employees like teens. Employers respond by cutting staff hours or positions and are forced to turn to more cost-effective alternatives like automation and self-service.

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, Washington, D.C.
(Saltsman is a research fellow with the Employment Policies Institute, a business-funded lobbying organization based in Washington, D.C.)