With that said, let's look at what the hike in the minimum wage has done to unemployment, specifically, teen unemployment.
Earlier this year, economist David Neumark of the University of California, Irvine, wrote on these pages that the 70-cent-an-hour increase in the minimum wage would cost some 300,000 jobs. Sure enough, the mandated increase to $7.25 took effect in July, and right on cue the August and September jobless numbers confirm the rapid disappearance of jobs for teenagers.
The September teen unemployment rate hit 25.9%, the highest rate since World War II and up from 23.8% in July. Some 330,000 teen jobs have vanished in two months. Hardest hit of all: black male teens, whose unemployment rate shot up to a catastrophic 50.4%. It was merely a terrible 39.2% in July.
The biggest explanation is of course the bad economy. But it's precisely when the economy is down and businesses are slashing costs that raising the minimum wage is so destructive to job creation. Congress began raising the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour in July 2007, and there are now 691,000 fewer teens working.
As the minimum wage has risen, the gap between the overall unemployment rate and the teen rate has widened, as it did again last month. (See nearby chart.) The current Congress has spent billions of dollars—including $1.5 billion in the stimulus bill—on summer youth employment programs and job training. Yet the jobless numbers suggest that the minimum wage destroyed far more jobs than the government programs helped to create.
Once again, let me ask my liberal brethren out there. If the minimum wage is such a good idea, why don't we make it $20/hr.?