Ferguson Commission Misses the Mark on Unemployment
After weeks of deliberation, the Ferguson Commission released its report last week. The report contains a wide range of policy prescriptions, most of which are aimed at rectifying injustices facing the greater St. Louis community.
The report rightly makes the case that one of the biggest issues facing the St. Louis region is unemployment. It then goes on to recommend increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Something doesn’t add up here.
Study after study has shown that minimum wage increases cause unemployment. Laws that drive up the cost of labor and lead to the elimination of jobs are the opposite of what Saint Louis needs.
Oddly enough, the report acknowledges the role of training positions in its discussion of unemployment. From the report:
Internships and apprenticeships are valuable programs to both help students succeed in their careers, and help employers ensure they have a competent, trained workforce. By expanding internship and apprenticeship opportunities for high school and college students, and fostering collaboration between educators and employers in the development of these programs, Missouri can support better learning and economic outcomes that benefit individuals, companies, and communities.
How do the report’s authors envision increasing training opportunities while at the same time doubling the amount that low skilled laborers must be paid?
The Show-Me Institute recently did a video on the revitalization effort of St. Louis’s Dutchtown neighborhood. In that video we tell the story of JJ, a young man from south St. Louis who worked his way to the front of the house at a local restaurant after starting washing dishes. For people without formal work experience, starting at minimum wage and learning skills on the job is the often the only way to train and gain experience. By pulling the bottom rung of the economic ladder up out of reach, a minimum wage increase will make it more difficult for people to move up in our economy.
It seems that the Ferguson Commission wants to propose policies that will help revitalize the underserved parts of our city and improve the lives of those that the system is failing. By calling for a minimum wage increase, they risk making things worse.