Current Job Market for Teens is the Toughest on Record

Thomas Sowell used his latest piece to address a common misconception regarding the left’s avowed concern for minorities. In his column, the renowned economist pointed out that the educational policies pursued by the left in the name of the poor and the minorities often hurt those they claim to protect.

The same can be said about other policies pursued by Democrats who tend to defend that more interventionism will undoubtedly lead to more opportunities for the poor, the young and the minorities.

According to a Brookings Institute study, teens have been having a harder time finding jobs in recent years. In 2000, research shows that 45% of teens in the U.S. had jobs, now only 26% of teens aged 16 to 19 are employed.

Researchers used Department of Labor and Census data to track youth employment among the 100 largest metro areas in the country. The study shows that 1.8 million teens are either actively looking for a job but are unable to get one or they have part-time jobs, whereas they’d prefer to obtain full-time employment instead. The study refers to this pattern as “underutilization,” which means that teens are not satisfied or financially stable to focus solely on school.

In other words, more teens need to work but are unable to find work.

Quit whining about the minimum wage

I’ve heard a lot recently about the minimum wage.  Fry cooks throughout the nation took to the streets to lament their dreadful lot in life.  Liberal wonks have taken to the airwaves to complain about how one just can’t live on $7.25 an hour, and it should be raise.  Some of these wonks say it should be doubled even.

Oh, cry me a freaking river.

Before I get into specifics, let me point out that as an entrepreneur, if I took how much I made running two businesses and divided it by the number of hours I work, I’d probably make less than $1 per hour, so don’t try to counter this as being “the rich looking down on the poor.”  I can barely pay my bills, so I hardly count as rich.  Also, for the record, only one of these businesses is mine, so don’t pull the “you own two businesses, so clearly you’re well off” crap.  My wife makes more than minimum wage, but not by a whole lot.  We have two kids.  We are scraping by, and just barely.

Now, about the minimum wage.  There are some things the wonks are right about.  One can not live on a minimum wage income — $7.25 per hour just isn’t enough to pay rent, a car payment, insurance on said car, utilities, and some kind of phone.

Of course, it’s also not meant to do that.

Minimum wage jobs aren’t skilled labor.  They’re entry level jobs.  That means they’re for people entering the workforce.  They’re for high school and college kids.  They’re for people who have left high school and are trying to figure out what they want to be when they grow up.  They’re for the young person trying to get established.  Hence the term “entry level.”

Thomas Sowell: Minimum Wage Hurts Black Workers

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell, a renowned free market economist and author, recently talked about his new book, Intellectuals and Race, in an appearance on Fox News. During the interview, Sowell, who is an African-American, told Tucker Carlson that minimum wage laws have hurt black workers:

In an appearance on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity” with fill-in host and Daily Caller editor in chief Tucker Carlson, author Thomas Sowell argued that the federal minimum wage law has been used to undermine companies that employ blacks.

In the fourth quarter of 2012, the black unemployment rate was more than double the rate for whites. But prior to the 1930s, Sowell said, black unemployment was actually lower than white unemployment.

“What changed was the government intervention into the labor market,” Sowell said. “1930 was the last year in which there was no federal minimum wage. They brought in the Davis Bacon Act.”

Leftists in Congress want a $10.10 minimum wage

During his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called on Congress to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour. Not to be out done, however, leftists in Washington have introduced legislation to raise the minimum wage to $10.10:

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) argues President Obama “missed the mark” in calling to raise the minimum wage to $9 in his State of the Union address, and his staff met with White House staff last week to argue for a higher number.

The veteran senator, who will retire at the end of this Congress, is working with Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) on legislation that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 over three years and then index future increases to inflation.

“Well, we’re going to introduce our own bill on it,” Harkin told The Hill on Tuesday. “I’m going to be in discussions with them because I think they missed the mark, but people make mistakes.”

While this proposal may make some people feel warm and fuzzy, it comes with real world consequences for those who it’s intended to help, including teens, entry-level, and unskilled workers. Veronique de Rugy recently pointed to a couple of different studies showing that the minimum wage the various effects the policy has on these workers. According to a study by three economists — David Neumark, William Wascher, and Mark Schweitzer — the minimum wage actually has the adverse effect of increasing poverty.

Nanny State California bans minors from tanning beds

Don’t worry Cali teens, the government will protect you from yourself:

There will be less California minors walking around trying to damage their precious hides on purpose after a new law — the first of its kind in the U.S. — goes into effect that prohibits anyone under 18 from using a tanning bed.

But as using tanning beds can lead to skin damage like melanoma, and early tanning can up that risk, it seems like a good move to prevent cancer later.

Quite obviously this is borne of a paternalistic intent to protect minors from the risks involved. As the government sees it, minors are too young and stupid to understand the risks and therefore must have the government make the decision for them. By this logic, everyone should be banned from tanning beds; if it is dangerous and adults still do it then clearly they don’t understand the risks either! Why set such an age limit? Doesn’t everyone deserve equal protection from their own bad decisions?

Note: California is not the only state with such laws. Many states have various age restrictions, but California is the first to ban everyone under 18.

President Obama is no longer “hip”

Is the President no longer the hip vote for young voters?  That’s what Elise Jordan at the National Review seems to think anyways.

President Obama’s got problems for 2012. Sure, he just hauled in a record $86 million in cash. But the fundraising success masks a very big issue: Obama has lost the youth vote — he just isn’t trendy any more. Which is good news for Republicans: President Untrendy gives us a better chance to win. As a generation of media-encouraged Obama idealists has turned economic realists, Republicans can appeal to this age bracket to take the prize next year.

Political campaigns have historically discounted the importance of the youth vote — for good reason, generally, as young voters have tended not to show up on Election Day. Obama has changed that dynamic, perhaps permanently. The Millennial generation, meaning 18-to-29-year-olds — whom I wrote about a few weeks back — mattered in the 2008 election because Obama’s campaign recognized and exploited them. His campaign team engaged them through ground-breaking use of social media and grassroots outreach. It worked. Youth voted for Obama by a margin of 2 to 1, and 3 million more new voters visited the polls than in 2004. The Millennials accounted for 18 percent of the vote, and it was the third consecutive presidential election with increased youth turnout.

Teen unemployment at an all-time high

We often hear that an increase in the minimum wage is needed to help workers; however, increases in the minimum wage are largely responsible for so many teens and less experienced workers being unemployed:

Perhaps you’ve already noticed around the neighborhood, but this is a rotten summer for young Americans to find a job. The Department of Labor reported last week that a smaller share of 16-19 year-olds are working than at anytime since records began to be kept in 1948.

Only 24% of teens, one in four, have jobs, compared to 42% as recently as the summer of 2001. The nearby chart chronicles the teen employment percentage over time, including the notable plunge in the last decade. So instead of learning valuable job skills—getting out of bed before noon, showing up on time, being courteous to customers, operating a cash register or fork lift—millions of kids will spend the summer playing computer games or hanging out.

The lousy economic recovery explains much of this decline in teens working, and some is due to increases in teen summer school enrollment. Some is also cultural: Many parents don’t put the same demands on teens as they once did to get out and work.
[T]he minimum wage increase has coincided with the plunge in the percentage of working teens. Before the most recent wage hikes, roughly seven million teens were working. Now there are closer to five million with a job and paycheck.

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