In President Obama’s speeches this year, a steady theme has been creating jobs and economic opportunity for Americans. In his State of the Union address in January he said that “what I believe unites the people of this nation . . . is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all—the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead.” And in his weekly address on Saturday, he repeated his strong appeal to young people: “As long as I hold this office, I’ll keep fighting to give more young people the chance to earn their own piece of the American Dream.”
Yet during the more than five years Mr. Obama has been in office, young people have been especially hard-hit by the slow and virtually jobless recovery. Given the destructive effect this has on individual initiative and the prospects of a productive and rewarding working life, the continuing struggle of young Americans to find jobs, start building families and contribute to society is no longer simply a matter of politics or policy. On a deeply human level, it’s profoundly sad.
Yeah, but parents’ basements have never been put to more use! Sorry, out of place.
Where are the entry-level jobs?
Five years of 2% average yearly GDP growth simply doesn’t produce enough jobs to absorb the natural increase in the labor force, and over the past eight quarters GDP growth has averaged only 1.7%. Between May 2008 and May 2014, BLS data show that the employable population increased by 14,217,000 while the number of people employed actually decreased by 94,000 and the number of people unemployed increased by 1,404,000. It remains a bad time for young people to be looking for jobs.
We noted the same point yesterday: the media may herald the recovery to the number of jobs pre-recession, but we’re fourteen million people bigger than we were then. Where are their jobs?
Nonetheless, various states and municipalities have increased their minimum wage, thereby increasing the cost of employing inexperienced workers. Minimum-wage jobs have always been a gateway to better opportunities. In making hiring decisions, businesses must weigh the quality and value of work that entry-level employees produce against the cost of employing them. For many businesses in high-minimum-wage states or municipalities—Seattle leads the list, having approved a move to a $15 minimum wage—that trade-off is no longer working.
The bottom line on labor: Make something less expensive and businesses will use more of it. Make something more expensive and businesses will use less of it. The Congressional Budget Office has forecast a loss of 500,000 jobs should the president’s proposal to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour become law.
The CBO also forecast that this increase would lift a number of people who already have jobs above the poverty threshold. For 500,000 unemployed people, however, that’s 500,000 opportunities American businesses will never create.
Don’t get this guy started on ObamaCare. Talk about a job killer. In fact, looking at Obama’s policies, you’d almost think he was killing the job market on purpose. Perhaps to capture a permanent class of dependents. He couldn’t be doing a better job (fortunate as he is—and unfortunate for us—to have one).
I think more than a few young people would be happier to graze on ol’ Obama’s farm than work like this:
I’m not speaking primarily as a business CEO. My company will adjust to new laws. I’m speaking as someone from a working-class family. I started work scooping ice cream for the minimum wage at Baskin-Robbins. To put myself through college and law school while supporting my family, I cut lawns, painted houses and busted concrete with a jackhammer. I know how important these jobs are. For one thing, they taught me—as no lectures from my parents ever could—that I needed a good education so I wouldn’t have to settle for low-paying work the rest of my life. Too many young people today are being deprived of even that basic lesson.
For which they give great thanks!