Unemployment Crisis for Black Teens

Kerry/Kennedy Minimum Wage Proposal Harmful to Already Struggling Entry-Level Job Seekers
  • Publication Date: July 2004

  • Topics: Minimum Wage

The June 2004 unemployment numbers generally spell good news for the nation overall at 5.6%. However, a crisis continues for many job seekers in the entry-level workforce that would only be exacerbated by a proposal from Senators Ted Kennedy and John Kerry to increase the minimum wage to $7.00 per hour. The U.S. Senate is expected to take up the debate on increasing the minimum wage on Tuesday.

The Department of Labor revealed significantly high unemployment rates for traditional entry-level employees: 8.8% for high school dropouts and 16.8% for teenagers. Black teens, in particular, received the worst news with an unemployment rate of 32.6%–the third straight month of increased unemployment. The Employment Policies Institute (EPI) notes that an increase in the federal minimum wage will cripple employment opportunities for these groups even further. Decades of economic research shows that when the minimum wage is increased, low-skill, entry level workers lose job opportunities to higher skilled workers that are attracted to the new wage. Research by economists at Cornell University concludes that high school drop outs and African-American young adults would suffer four times more job loss as a result of a wage hike.

GatewayJobs.com, a website launched by EPI earlier this summer, highlights the crisis in entry-level employment and details how the push by Senators Kerry and Kennedy to increase the minimum wage to $7.00 an hour will further hurt those individuals already struggling to find jobs. The site is regularly updated with statistics detailing the employment market for entry-level employees, and provides vital information about a host of government assistance programs designed to promote employment and economic success

“The increasing unemployment rates facing these workers are alarming, particularly for black teens” said Craig Garthwaite, EPI’s Director of Research. “The nation needs to focus on economic policies that will create, not destroy, job opportunities for the entry-level workforce.”