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Archive for October 3rd, 2009

The Wall Street Journal rightfully complains about government-imposed minimum wage laws, which are causing higher levels of teenage unemployment. But an underappreciated aspect of this story is the role of union bosses. The unions are big advocates of higher minimum wages, ostensibly because they want to help the working poor, but the real reason is that unions want to somehow acheive above-market wages for their members, and it is difficult to achieve that goal if employers have other options. But if unions can increase the cost of hiriing other workers – or if they can price them out of the market with minimum-wage laws, then that helps the union bosses negotiate favorable deals. Regardless, the real victims are the hundreds of thousands of teenagers who are now jobless, as the WSJ explains:

Yesterday’s September labor market report was lousy by any measure, with 263,000 lost jobs and the jobless rate climbing to 9.8%. But for one group of Americans it was especially awful: the least skilled, especially young workers. Washington will deny the reality, and the media won’t make the connection, but one reason for these job losses is the rising minimum wage. Earlier this year, economist David Neumark of the University of California, Irvine, wrote on these pages that the 70-cent-an-hour increase in the minimum wage would cost some 300,000 jobs. Sure enough, the mandated increase to $7.25 took effect in July, and right on cue the August and September jobless numbers confirm the rapid disappearance of jobs for teenagers. The September teen unemployment rate hit 25.9%, the highest rate since World War II and up from 23.8% in July. Some 330,000 teen jobs have vanished in two months. Hardest hit of all: black male teens, whose unemployment rate shot up to a catastrophic 50.4%. It was merely a terrible 39.2% in July. The biggest explanation is of course the bad economy. But it’s precisely when the economy is down and businesses are slashing costs that raising the minimum wage is so destructive to job creation. …The current Congress has spent billions of dollars—including $1.5 billion in the stimulus bill—on summer youth employment programs and job training. Yet the jobless numbers suggest that the minimum wage destroyed far more jobs than the government programs helped to create. Congress and the Obama Administration simply ignore the economic consensus that has long linked higher minimum wages with higher unemployment. Two years ago Mr. Neumark and William Wascher, a Federal Reserve economist, reviewed more than 100 academic studies on the impact of the minimum wage. They found “overwhelming” evidence that the least skilled and the young suffer a loss of employment when the minimum wage is increased. …State lawmakers are also at fault. At least 10 states have raised their minimum wages above the federal level in the last decade, largely in response to union lobbying and in the name of helping the working poor. Four states with among the highest wage rates are California, Massachusetts, Michigan and New York. Studies have shown in each case that their wage policies killed jobs for teens. The Massachusetts teen employment rate sank by one-third when the minimum wage rose by 88% between 1995 and 2008.

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