Minimum wage challenges for young people
By Jan Teague, President/CEO
This past week we began looking for an entry-level employee to do some simple data entry. The first day over sixty people submitted their resumes. There were so many choices of experienced people looking for work. It's not easy finding the right employee. But we quickly saw that young inexperienced workers could not compete. That is what is happening in the marketplace right now.
It's hard to justify hiring a young inexperienced worker when the minimum wage is so high. Nationally, just 50.2 percent of Americans ages 16 to 24 had jobs in July 2012. There is growing literature on the minimum wage's impact on our young people. They need to earn money early so they can move up the job ladder with their job experiences and have the opportunity of increased future earnings. With a high unemployment rate, there simply are not enough jobs for inexperienced young workers.
Last week I heard Dr. Frank Luntz, a pollster and communications analyst, say that we needed to tell the story of what "Economic Freedom" means. In this country it means a lot of things, but for sure to young people it means having a job. Policies that suppress hiring young people in the guise of rhetoric like "living wage" are proving to exclude the rights of future generations to enter the marketplace when they should. Studies show that this has a long-term impact on a worker's job prospects and creates "wage scarring." The longer our young people don't work, the harder it is to have "Economic Freedom."
In the long term, our studies will not simply show the statistics of youth joblessness, they will point out the unintended social consequences of high unemployment in our youth population. Idleness can fester itself into social unrest. The unintended consequences of closing off jobs to our young people are yet to be fully realized.
In Washington State employers are allowed to pay 14 and 15-year-olds 85 percent of the minimum wage as a training wage. I think it's time to revisit those ages and put more young people to work.