AP Writes Over 1300 Words on the Loss Of Summer Jobs for Teens, Never Mentions Minimum Wage

If one is curious why the public is economically illiterate, look no further than our media.  The AP's Paul Wiseman managed to write 1300 words on the loss of teenage summer jobs, and even lists a series of what he considers to be the causes, without ever once mentioning the minimum wage or the substantial restrictions on teen employment in place in many states.  I do not know Paul Wiseman and so I will not guess at his motivations - whether ignorance or intentional obfuscation - but it is impossible to believe that this trend isn't in part due to the minimum wage.  As I wrote in the comments on the AZ Republic:

How is it possible to write over 1300 words on the disapearance of teenage summer jobs without once mentioning the minimum wage?

Two of the most substantial criticisms of the minimum wage are 1. it prices low-skilled workers out of the market (and there is no one more unskilled than an inexperienced teenager) and 2. it put 100% emphasis on pay as the only reward for work, while giving no credit for things like gaining valuable experience and skills. We clearly see both at work here, and it is likely no coincidence that we are seeing this article in the same year minimum wages went up by 25% in AZ, as they have in many other states.

By the way, in addition to the minimum wage, AZ (as has many other states) has established all sorts of laws to "protect" underrage workers by adding all sorts of special work rules and tracking requirements. In our business, which is a summer recreation business, we used to hire a lot of teenagers. Now we have a policy banning the hiring of them -- they are too expensive, they create too much liability, and the rules for their employment are too restrictive.

Without evidence, he treats it entirely as a supply problem, ie that teens are busy and are not looking for work. But the data do not support this.  The teen unemployment rate, defined as employment by teens actively looking for work, is up.  The workforce participation rate for teens is down, but the author has nothing but anecdotal evidence that this is a supply rather than a demand issue.  It could be because teens are busier or buried in their cell phones or whatever or it could be because they have given up looking for work.


  1. The_Big_W:

    When all of your ideas and policies are based on a story (the narrative), you don't really need to find real reasons for things....

  2. frankania:

    When I was 13, I walked into a TV repair shop, and asked if I could work there for free, in order to learn electronics. The owner said, "sure, you can sweep up, answer the phone, etc. and I will show you some repair tricks". A year later, I was getting a salary and fixing a few things, and building my own transmitter for ham radio.
    Teens, if you want to work, try this personal approach. If they mention minimum-wage, tell them, "well, I will come in a couple hours early each day for free--as an intern or student.

  3. politicalcalcs:

    It gets stranger still - the BLS issued a report earlier this year (February 2017) in its Monthly Labor Review discussing teen labor force participation without once mentioning the minimum wage. Here's the link to the report:


    Here's a link to our analysis for the teen job situation in California that connects minimum wage increases to adverse events in teen jobs:


    For our thinking, the minimum wage increases are contributing to a negative feedback signal. The teens who are going out seeking jobs are being turned down because potential employers seeking workers are increasingly telling them that they don't have the education, experience or skills to hire them, even in occupations where even less capable teens did the jobs in the years preceding the minimum wage increases. Teens, being social, then communicate that feedback to their peers, which is then directly responsible for the decline in labor force participation where teens don't even seek jobs that the others in their peer group have been told they cannot get.

    I'd be curious to know if there are any social scientists out there whose research has a way to test that hypothesis. .

  4. Knox North:

    Take a look at the Atlantic for a nuanced article on the teen unemployment. https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/06/disappearance-of-the-summer-job/529824/

  5. Shane:

    This will now put the employer in jeopardy of a lawsuit, and no employer will do it. That is one of the problems with the regulations part of the equation. Read Coyote's adventures in CA and you will see what I am talking about.

  6. Shane:

    LOL look no further than our neighbors across the pond to see the drift we are experiencing. Governments don't seem to care about the weakest members of their tribe. Youth unemployment is a hallmark of Socialism. To me it is no different than Seattle constantly trying regulate and tax the shit out of the tattoo artists. Easy targets.

  7. Jesse Nelson:

    While I don't doubt the minimum wage increases have an effect, most likely higher in the cities and on disadvantaged teens, in my suburban area I see teens tend to place little value on summer jobs these days and parents less and less require teens to get them to have their own spending money. In addition, or teens (and their parents) who universally think their destiny is college, working the summer in a minimum wage job is a fool's errand economically. Extra-curricular activites that are going to look good on their application are probably more likely to help. Even the simple desire of teens for independence has waned. A suburban high school kid is less and less likely to even get their driver's license until after the age of 18 these days so if they do land a job, someone has to drive them to work. When you already get chauffeured everywhere, you won't need money for a car or gas. In general they've just decided learning to work is something they deal with later in life. Of course by then they bump up against the harsh reality that their liberal arts degree is useless and they quickly have to learn to tend bar to pay off their student loans.

  8. cc:

    Many teenagers are almost useless at first when you hire them (speaking for myself, for example).
    People who are well-off ignore the crucial role of past employment on getting a job. While the kid going to medical school doesn't need McD on their cv, many kids are stigmatized by not having a work history when they really need a job.

  9. SamWah:

    They did leave out the administrative restrictions on teen-age employment.

  10. obloodyhell:

    What you're getting wrong is that the sole driver of this trend is high minimum wage.

    It's also "child labor laws". I had my own first job mowing lawns at 11yo. I had my own first paid hourly job during summer at a Denny's clone at 14. I seem to recall working as late as midnight as a busboy.

    Go ahead and tell me either of those work experience options are common today....

  11. scp:

    I started delivering newspapers on my ten-speed at age 12. Nowadays, many employers won't even hire under 16, probably because of regulatory costs, I suppose. We gave our fifteen year old son a choice for the summer, get a job or spend two hours a day posting on steemit.com. The employers he checked with were all age-limited to 16+, so he's blogging for cryptocurrency.

  12. Mark Cazer:

    Free Markets! That's what drives prices AND should be what drives wages. It sounds noble for politician to want to raise wages for all working Americans. However, like almost all government interventions, the unintended consequences diminish the benefits. The correct minimum wage is, in fact, $0.00. That's right! Zero!!! Let McDonald's (an all businesses) offer whatever wages they want to and let market forces adjust the wage to it correct level. It will work! And workers at McD's might actually get a "natural" raise. Not an artificial one.