Posted: February 10, 2012
When the federal government last changed the minimum wage in 2009, I supported the rate being upgraded to $7.25 per hour. However, if I knew then what I know now, I probably would have been less enamored with the increase.
Prior to 2007, when the first of three minimum wage rate increases went into effect, the jobless rate for teenagers was less than 15 percent. Today, the unemployment rate for teens is 23.1 percent. Likewise, the number of African American teenagers looking for a job has increased to 39.6 percent. Obviously, a slow economy has impacted the number of young workers who are trying to find jobs. But there appears to be a correlation with the teenage unemployment rate and the minimum wage rate increases.
Last week, Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney proposed a rising minimum wage indexed for inflation. The concept will probably be well-received by voters, but few policies are as destructive as the minimum wage at keeping the younger and least skilled workers out of the job market.
I would like to see Congress and the next president propose a special sub-minimum wage for teenagers. It's been discussed on Capitol Hill before, but nobody wants to put their neck out and help the younger generation find work. There's no question that $7.25 per hour is barely a living wage, but there should be a lower wage level for those who are young, uneducated or lacking the skills necessary for an entry-level job.
There are signs across the country that the economy is improving. But, like I always say, Wisconsin is usually a bit behind any upward economic trend. With that being said, it's imperative that small business owners not be burdened with any higher wage limits for entry level workers so that when the economy does begin to show improvement here, the gains aren't being offset by increased payroll expenses.
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