Labor Secretary Seth Harris Needs a Labor Economics Class

Acting Secretary of Labor Seth Harris has been visiting numerous cities around the country to rally support for President Obama’s minimum wage hike proposal, which would increase the current wage by 24 percent. The content of the speeches suggests he should have brought along an economics textbook for the plane ride.

Mr. Harris claims there is “plenty of evidence” by “top economists in the country” to show that a mandated wage increase does not come at the expense of job opportunities. It’s an interesting remark for the country’s Secretary of Labor, who you’d think would understand that making labor more expensive means employers demand less of it.

The few outlying economists that Mr. Harris (as well as President Obama) is referring to are overwhelmingly contradicted by evidence built up over the last two decades. Economists at the University of California-Irvine and the Federal Reserve Board report that 85% of the most credible studies from this period point to job loss for the most vulnerable employees following a minimum wage hike.

Mr. Harris also boasts about the employees who would receive the raise, but fails to mention the unintended consequences that they would face: Recent economic research proves that the “losers” from a minimum wage increase—those who move closer to the poverty line—outnumber the winners.  That’s because employees who lose hours of work (or their jobs) are worse off even if the mandated hourly minimum is higher.

Next time Mr. Harris wants to rally public support for the President’s minimum wage proposal, he should forget his ideological commitment to the minimum wage, and instead focus on the facts.