What Puerto Rico Can Teach Us About the Minimum Wage

Puerto Rico photo

Photo by dameetch

(Mises.org) This week, twenty states began implementing minimum wage increases that were passed during 2016. As the country waits to see how these increased wages this will affect the economy, the U.S. territories have already provided us with a grim example.

After the 2007 Fair Minimum Wage Act was passed, each of the fifty states was required to raise the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour in 2006, to $7.25 by 2009. Few Americans realize that this legislation was also applied to the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands, who were also forced to raise wages.

When the minimum wage is increased, the private sector is responsible for finding the means to actually pay for these increases. Though many companies will be forced to raise prices in order to continue operating within their profit margins, some might be left with no choice but to lay off employees or dramatically cut employee hours.

Since minimum wage pay is typically associated with entry-level workers, if employers are forced to let these employees go, they will lack the skills necessary to quickly rebound in the job market. As a result, unemployment rates begins to rise.

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When minimum wage requirements are made at the city or state level, the losses experienced from high unemployment rates are offset in the local economy, since many who are unable to find work often relocate to an area where the minimum wage isn’t as restrictive…

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