Thomas Sowell

Signs that the "jobless recovery" is starting to generate jobs after all should not prevent our looking at some of the factors in the earlier slow growth of employment while the economy was growing vigorously otherwise.

 Although the unemployment rate has been at near record lows, despite the slow growth of employment, this has been because of people who simply dropped out of the labor force, and were therefore not counted as unemployed. But think about it. Can you or I simply drop out of the labor force?

 Of course not. We have bills to pay. Who can drop out then? Usually either those who are rich, those who are willing to live on handouts or young people still living with or off their parents.

 According to the March 22nd issue of BusinessWeek magazine, "almost all" of the decline in the number of people seeking work "has occurred in the 16- to 24-year-old age group." Labor force participation among people older than that has continued to be what it usually is.

 In other words, people who have to support themselves and their families were not the ones dropping out of the labor force. When things get tough for younger people, they can turn to mom and dad. Others turn to the taxpayers.

 There is another aspect to this, however. Jobs have long been harder for young people to find. Some might say that this is due to their lesser skills and experience. But there is no inherent reason why low-skill people should be any less employable at low wages than high-skill people are at high wages.

 The difference is that the government sets a lower limit to the movement of wages and also mandates working conditions and other benefits that are the same for everyone. All these things cost money and in effect make the minimum wage higher.

 These things that cost employers money and cost workers jobs do not, however, cost anything to those who pass laws that enable the legislators to feel good about themselves and look good to the voters. These costs do not get counted.

 California in general, and San Francisco in particular, think nothing of piling on goodies that employers are required to provide. Costs are no deterrent to the politicians, who can always call the goodies "rights" or part of business' "social responsibilities."

 That kind of rhetoric is sufficient for those who have been through the dumbed-down education of our times. Costs, consequences, logic and evidence are concepts that are too old-fashioned for those who are in tune with our times.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate