Just Say No to Jobs for the Young and Unskilled

Gov. Jerry Brown signs a bill in September to raise the state’s minimum wage. Photo: Nick Ut, Associated PressAs pictured here, Governor Jerry Brown has signed new minimum wage legislation that ups the minimum productivity to be employed in California to $9 per hour starting next year, and $10 per hour in 2016.

Supervisors will also have to increase their productivity if they want to stay employed. The San Francisco Chronicle offers this editorialized interpretation in its “news” coverage of the bill:

This will also help low-wage supervisors because state law requires most employees who are exempt from overtime to be paid at least twice minimum wage.

Again, minimum wage laws only “help” those who are able to provide employers with skills that bring the employers value at least equal to the minimum wage.

Those without job skills, or without sufficient skills to produce value at least equal to the minimum wage find themselves out of work, out of luck, and more dependent on the government for their support.

Thus the end of gas station attendants, movie ushers, delivery “boys,” most clerical positions, and myriad jobs with which earlier generations built basic job skills like reliability, ability to follow directions, responsiveness to customers, tenacity, thrift, and responsibility.

Soon on the endangered-jobs list: fast food order-takers, to be replaced by self-service iPad-type kiosks, the few remaining live American customer service call-centers, as well as lower-level supervisors, with more workers reporting to fewer bosses, and an attendant loss of mentors to the lower-skilled.

Youth unemployment chronically outpaces that of general population, with 22.2% of teenagers 16-19 unemployed, compared with 7.3% of the general population.

Most economists agree that raising the minimum wage increases unemployment, especially among the lower-skilled.

As detailed further in the Library of Economics and Liberty:

The job losses for black U.S. teenagers have been found to be even greater, presumably because, on average, they have fewer skills. As liberal economist Paul A. Samuelson wrote in 1973, “What good does it do a black youth to know that an employer must pay him $2.00 per hour if the fact that he must be paid that amount is what keeps him from getting a job?”

How much worse the situation when it’s $9?

The unemployment rate for black youth today is 36%.

Most politicians apparently agree that this is an acceptable price to be paid for them to look as if they care—after all, those employed at minimum-wage jobs are not big political contributors.

Mary L. G. Theroux is Senior Vice President of the Independent Institute. Having received her A.B. in economics from Stanford University, she is Managing Director of Lightning Ventures, L.P., a San Francisco Bay Area investment firm, former Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Salvation Army of both San Francisco and Alameda County, and Vice President of the C.S. Lewis Society of California.
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