In an article by Mickey Meece in the NY Times entitled "Job Outlook for Teenagers Worsens", you'll find a lot of worry about the staggeringly high unemployment rate of young people aged 16-24. But nary a peep is made about the obvious elephant in the room: the minimum wage.
That is a stark contrast to the job market for recent college graduates seeking full-time employment — a market where this is actually a slight increase from this time last year.
There is no simple explanation for the large drop-off in summer jobs this decade, though experts say that more high school students are choosing to volunteer and do internships to burnish their college applications. But the Northeastern researchers said a large number of youths had been left out of the work force and wanted to get back in.
The recession didn't start until late in 2007, but the unemployment rate of 16-24 year olds began to increase in the second quarter of 2007. The minimum wage was increased at the beginning of the third quarter of 2007 (July, specifically) for the first time in nearly a decade, but the increase was signed into law by then-president Bush on May 25th (the second quarter) of that year. Employers knew for certain in the second quarter that the minimum wage was going to increase, so they scaled back their hiring of low-skilled workers in that quarter.
The recession and two subsequent increases in the minimum wage - in July of 2008 and 2009 - have driven the unemployment rate of 16-24 year olds from 10% in the first quarter of 2007 to 18.7% in the first quarter of 2010.*
Either Mr. Meece needs some Econ 101 training or his editors do. I don't expect a detailed literature review, a complicated regression analysis of the teenage labor market, or anything like that. But it would be nice if there would at least be a mention that the minimum wage is responsible. That's all I'm asking for. Is that asking too much?
*All unemployment rate data are from the Current Population Survey and are seasonally-adjusted.
Update: Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek noted the same thing I noted in this post.