Your June 17 lead editorial “Raise the minimum wage, but exempt summer jobs for teens” recognizes how a minimum wage that exceeds the level of worker productivity can pose problems for young and inexperienced workers. A lower minimum wage for teens would allow the private sector to help solve the problem of rising unemployment among young people and reduce pressure to rely on increasing taxpayer subsidies for summer jobs.
But the minimum wage for all workers must also reflect economic reality. Setting it at a level that is out of the mainstream would exacerbate the negative economic effects of layoffs, fewer new job opportunities, or higher prices.
For a small business owner, the money has to come from somewhere. Instituting a $10 minimum wage within 18 months would make Massachusetts an outlier compared with other states in the Northeast. For example, New York and Connecticut recently enacted increases in their state minimum wage to $9 an hour to be phased in over two years. New Hampshire’s minimum wage is still $7.25 per hour.
Finally, minimum wage earners are a small segment of the state’s population, and the segment is constantly changing. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there are 62,000 minimum wage earners in Massachusetts. Few are sole family breadwinners, and almost all earn the minimum wage for a short period of time.
Raising the minimum wage would reduce the growth and dynamism that create wealth and economic opportunity.