It happened again for just over two years from October 1981 to November 1983 (and briefly again for two months in 1985) — just after the 1977 minimum wage increase was fully phased in — a 45 percent jump from $2.30 to $3.35.
We saw 20 percent teen unemployment again for eight out of 12 months in 1992 following the 27 percent increase in the minimum wage that took effect in 1990 and 1991.
And we’ve been living with it now for by far the longest period in history: Every single month since November 2008 — right in the middle of the three-step increase in the minimum wage that raised it more than 40 percent. That’s five full years. The peak of 27.1 percent teenage unemployment came in October 2009 — just two months after the last minimum wage spike took effect.
Unemployment among workers aged 20 to 24 has been above 10 percent even longer than teenage unemployment has been above 20. We have, in effect, an entire generation in which millions of people are reaching age 25 without significant work experience.
Why would we even consider raising the minimum wage again, right on the heels of the massive 40 percent hike that has wreaked such havoc on teenage and youth unemployment?
A better idea would be to reform and expand the existing Youth Minimum Wage Program, which allows teenagers to work for as little as $4.25 an hour, but for no more than 90 calendar days and with other restrictions. The restrictions should be eliminated and a second sub-minimum tier should be created for workers between age 20 and 24. Then future minimum wage hikes — if they prove irresistible politically — can at least be targeted to adults 25 and over.
Phil Kerpen is the president of American Commitment and author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.