Last week as I was perusing the Star’s daily letters to the editor to observe what local Tucsonans were currently deliberating about, I came across a rather interesting letter submitted by a 17-year-old teenager who was doubtlessly dismayed, perhaps even mildly agitated, by the fact that after months of submitting job applications, she remained unemployed.
Sage Mitchell, a high school senior at City High School who is, according to the letter, responsible, reliable, willing to work in any field, and has volunteer experience, asked why she cannot get a job despite Tucson’s low unemployment rate. Mitchell ended the pithy letter by stating an observation followed by asking, “I’ve noticed most businesses have workers twice my age doing what is generally considered a “starter” job. Is this my future?”
I bring this anecdote up for discussion because it is now January 2019, which means that the minimum wage has increased once again, this time to $11 an hour. Throughout my time writing for the Star, I feel that I have expounded on several occasions on the detriments of the minimum wage.
This time, what I would like to do, is elucidate on the primary reason for why the minimum wage is hampering Mitchell, and other young first-time job seekers, from landing a first-time job.
Fundamentally, what the minimum wage does is it creates a barrier to entry for first-time job seekers by forcing businesses to hire only the most skilled, experienced, and educated candidates, despite the simplicity of the job. This is because as the price of labor, or the minimum wage increases, so does the demand for higher-quality candidates. Young first-time job seekers however, despite their willingness, are not the most skilled, experienced or educated.
This is demonstrably problematic, paradoxical, and a common complaint among young first-time job seekers. How exactly are young applicants supposed to land their first job if they have no prior experience, nor are given the opportunity to acquire that initial experience? This is precisely what entry-level jobs are for, and it is the minimum wage that is obstructing young first-time job seekers from obtaining them.
The great thing about entry-level jobs, is that they serve as a way to introduce young first-time workers to the workforce, as well as inculcate workmanship values such as being on time, being a team player, and being a problem solver. Furthermore, they also act as a gateway to obtain higher earning positions, or support employees financially while endeavoring to achieve other noteworthy goals such as earning a higher education. All in all, young workers cannot get a job unless they acquire their first job.
Returning back to our hopeful job seeker, Mitchell is astute and correct to observe that there are “workers twice (her) age doing what is generally considered a “starter” job.” This is not because of age however, but because the minimum wage induces business owners to hire only the most skilled, experienced, and educated candidates. In other words, higher-quality candidates, who just happen to be older, supersede first-time job seekers.
This is not to suggest that older individuals are undeserving of these jobs, or that indignity should be proffered to them because they continue to hold these entry-level positions, but it is to suggest that the minimum wage curtails businesses from offering Mitchell and other young first-time job seekers a job opportunity.
As always, as I have portended in the past, before we impose any further minimum-wage increases, please, always analyze all available externalities and who they affect.