Bringing the Economy Home

Do Minimum Wage Requirements Add To Teen Unemployment?

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

We spoke with Stephen Berry back in March as he was searching for a job.

A report by the conservative-leaning Idaho Freedom Foundation concludes Idaho teens have fewer job opportunities because the state’s minimum wage has increased by $2.10 since 2007.

“There may well be multiple reasons why unemployment has risen so quickly among teens, but the one that cannot be overlooked is the rapid increase of the minimum wage. Between 2007 and 2009 the federal minimum wage increased from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 an hour. This represented a 41 percent increase during a period that included the beginning of a major economic downturn. It is unsurprising that such a dramatic increase in the baseline cost of labor led to an equally dramatic decline in the demand for it. Recent research and analysis have found that in 2011 over 2,000 additional Idaho teens would have been employed if the minimum wage had not been increased.” – Idaho Freedom Foundation

That stat the Freedom Foundation cites comes from a 2010 report by the Employment Policies Institute, a Washington, D.C. based think-tank.

Idaho’s Department of Labor spokesman isn’t convinced of the link between high teen joblessness and the increased minimum wage.

“The competition for job seekers with no previous work experience is intense,” said Bob Fick from IDL. He considers the impact of the minimum wage on unemployment “negligible,” but admits that “the number of companies that have typically had job fairs in the spring to hire for the summer has been off dramatically since the recession began.”-

Here’s a side-by-side look at the states (plus Washington, D.C.) that recorded the highest teen unemployment rates in 2011 (Teens are defined as 16 to 19-year-olds), compared with that state’s minimum wage as of January 2012.  The data in the table comes from the U.S. Department of Labor.

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Tennessee gets a ‘N/A’ because it doesn’t have a minimum wage requirement.

Do you think minimum wage requirements make it tougher for a teen to get a job? Let us know in the comments section below.


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