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D.C. Think Tank: Florida's Minimum Wage Hike Hits Teens, Adds Unemployment Barrier

October 14, 2012 - 6:00pm

Minimum wage in Florida will grow to $7.79 an hour with the arrival of the New Year -- a 12 cents boost from the current rate.

The state Department of Economic Opportunity announced without fanfare the recalculated minimum figure on Monday, and a Washington, D.C., think tank was quick to point out that this will further hinder chances for teens to find work in the Sunshine State.

The fiscally conservative Washington, D.C.-based Employment Policies Institute argued that for Florida, where unemployment stood at 28.6 percent in August for those between the ages of 16 and 19 seeking work, such minimum wage increases only further limit the availability of jobs.

Businesses that hire minimum-wage employees often operate on razor-thin profit margins and annual increases to the minimum wage make it extremely difficult for them to simply absorb higher labor costs without compensating by cutting employee hours or jobs, EPI research fellow Michael Saltsman stated in a release.

As a result, teens miss out on the crucial job experience they need to move on to other career opportunities.

At a time when the countrys labor market is still weak, and when teens especially are suffering, we shouldnt be celebrating a policy that creates more barriers to employment.

In Florida, where unemployment held at 8.8 percent from July to August, the out of work rates by age stand: at 15.5 percent for those aged 20-24; 9.1 percent aged 25-54; and 8.3 percent for those 55 and older.

The current minimum of $7.67 an hour went into place on Jan. 1, 2012, growing from $7.31.

State law requires the DEO to periodically recalculate Floridas minimum wage, using the federal Consumer Price Index for Urban Earners and Clerical Workers in the Southern Region.

For employees who survive on tips, such as waiters and waitresses, the minimum wage will go from $4.65 an hour -- in addition to their tips -- to $4.77 on Jan. 1, 2013.

On Oct. 1, the states top economists sitting as the Florida Economic Estimating Conference, projected Florida will create more than 900,000 new jobs by 2018.

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

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