Minimum wage: Roll back state standard to create jobs

Nevada’s minimum wage won’t change for at least another year. Labor Commissioner Thoran Towler announced last week the minimum hourly rate will remain at $7.25 for workers who receive health benefits from employers and $8.25 for workers who don’t.

Nevada voters in 2006 approved a constitutional amendment requiring the state’s minimum wage be recalculated annually, based on the federal standard (currently $7.25 per hour) and changes to the cost of living.

Broadcast newsreaders are in the habit of chirping that any hike in the minimum wage means “Nevada’s lowest-paid workers got a raise today!” In reality, younger, unskilled workers can expect to be laid off and replaced with robots and computers, while more than half those searching for their first, entry-level job are plumb out of luck.

Nevada’s minimum wage has exploded by 60 percent in the past six years, from $5.15 to $8.25 per hour. This outlawing of lower-paid jobs started to accelerate just before the onset of the Great Recession. Nevada employers hired 35,200 teens in the second quarter of 2006. In the second quarter of 2010, Nevada companies hired just 12,500 teens.

By delaying teens’ first job experiences, where they prove they can show up on time, take direction and interact with customers, this law limits their future earning potential.

How bad are things? Nationwide, a quarter of youths ages 16 to 19 were employed last year. About 61 percent of Americans between ages 20 and 24 were working. Such lows haven’t been seen since World War II. According to the Center for Business and Economic Research at the UNLV, Nevada’s youth employment rate was a couple of percentage points higher, at 27 percent and 64 percent. Yes, that means only 27 percent of Nevada kids ages 16 to 19 could find work.

Because they’re all lazy and not really looking? Please. When the new Wet ’n’ Wild water park advertised 300 to 500 seasonal summer jobs last month, the business got more than 20,000 applications. Yes, they want to work.

For this reason, state Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, is again proposing a repeal of the state’s minimum wage edict, Senate Joint Resolution 2. Representatives of the restaurant and retail industries and two chambers of commerce support the resolution, pointing out that — in the coming era of ObamaCare — punishing employers for not providing health insurance benefits makes progressively less sense, anyway.

If that can’t be accomplished, lawmakers should extend a lower “training wage” for workers younger than 20. Arizona, Maine, Missouri, Illinois and Michigan have much lower minimum wages for teens in starter jobs. Employers could also create more jobs for willing teens if they could pay less to workers who regularly receive tips.

If lawmakers are serious about helping businesses create jobs and giving young Nevadans the ability to find work, they’ll pass SJR 2.

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