Summer jobs do more than provide teens pocket-money.  They are supposed to be an important skill-building opportunity.  Teens learn the basics about customer service, good manners, a professional demeanor, following a work schedule, and how to manage a relationship with a boss.  It’s also an important line on the resume, allowing teens to demonstrate a work history which can be an important foundation when applying for other future (better paying) jobs.

Yet sadly for too many teens today, such opportunities are hard to come by.  The Employment Policy Institute released a study in June that analyzed Census Bureau data.  They noted that the national unemployment rate for those 16-19 without a high school diploma was 21 percent, but in some metropolitan areas, youth unemployment rates were much worse.  In fact, EPI reported that “four of the top five worst metro areas for youth unemployment are in California.”

For example, San Francisco’s teen unemployment rate was above 35%.  That means more than one out of every three high schoolers who is looking for work can’t find a job.  That’s a big, irreplaceable, lost opportunity for these youngsters.  Not only are they missing this skill-building opportunity, they are also likely getting demoralized about the economy, which could discourage them from looking for work in the future.

So what are city officials doing about this serious problem?

Naturally, in San Francisco, they are plotting ways to make it far worse by discouraging the creation of jobs for this demographic.  San Francisco's mayor has proposed hiking the minimum wage above $15, and the city’s controller is warning that this will result in thousands of fewer jobs, particularly for those with few skills.  As Bloomberg Business Week reports:

A proposal to raise San Francisco’s minimum wage to $15 an hour would cost about 15,270 jobs concentrated in the low-wage restaurant and food-service industries by 2019, according to the city’s controller.

While the plan to raise the wage in California’s fourth-largest city from $10.74 to $15 by 2018 would boost employee earnings and consumer spending, the additional expenses would discourage job creation, according to a report today by the Controller’s Office of Economic Analysis.

“To the extent that higher minimum wage raises labor costs, it will create a disincentive to hire employees and would lead to reduced employment,” the report said.

Mayor Ed Lee, champion of the proposed minimum wage hike, explained: “San Francisco is the most progressive city in America when it comes to addressing income inequality…We are going to help our lowest-paid workers.”

Lee didn’t explain, apparently, how robbing those with the fewest skills of desperately needed job opportunities helps them. 

Raising the minimum wage sounds compassionate only if one ignores how this policy actually works in practice to prevent people from beginning their climb up the economic ladder.  And there’s simply nothing compassionate about that.