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Opinion

Op-Ed: Raising minimum wage will kill jobs for young Millennials

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Young Americans looking for work could receive another crushing blow this week as the U.S. Senate will decide Thursday whether to confirm Thomas Perez as the next secretary of labor.

Perez has been touted as President Obama's point man for a national minimum wage increase that will disproportionately harm Millennials.

Minimum wage earners are predominantly young and inexperienced. Half of all individuals working in these jobs are under 25 years of age and need part-time, entry-level work to gain critical experience.

Most haven't completed college: a third are in high school, another quarter have a high-school degree, and 40 percent are currently attending college.

Looking back on my first resume coming out of college, it was heavy on minimum-wage employment. I gained work experience in high school and college by moving furniture, working a cash register, and so on.

America's youth greatly benefit from these types of entry-level jobs where they develop the skills and work ethic necessary to succeed further down the line.

But increasing the cost of hiring makes it dramatically more difficult to find these jobs. Employers are less likely to hire young people if the government artificially inflates the cost of labor.

Between 2007 and 2009, the minimum wage was raised from $5.15 to $7.25. This increase, combined with a poor economy, helped teen unemployment spike from 14.9% to a whopping 27.6%. Wages were reduced to $0.00 for 691,000 young Americans who no longer had a job at all.

Contrary to what politicians claim, increasing the minimum wage will not actually help relieve national poverty levels. While more than three-quarters (79%) of young minimum wage earners are working part-time jobs, less than a quarter (22%) of them are in poverty because base-pay earners are often one of a few income earners in their home.

The average income of a household with a young minimum wage earner is $65,900 per year; nearly triple the poverty level for a family of four.

Only 3.6 million Americans currently earn entry-level pay or less, while more than 46 million Americans languish in poverty. One out of every six 18-29 year-olds is effectively out of work. The problem my generation faces is a lack of job opportunities, not an inadequate starting wage.

Rather than promote a flawed plan to raise entry-level wages, the real solution is a dynamic economy that creates jobs so that every young person looking for work can find it. A growing economy requires a free and flourishing private sector, not more government dictates, taxes, and regulations.

If Obama and Perez truly care about economic opportunity for millennials generation, they will make it easier for employers to hire us. And they can start today by rolling back federal mandates that price us out of our first job.

Evan Feinberg is president of Generation Opportunity.

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