House Democrats insisted on incorporating a mandatory paid leave program — and its $168 million wage tax — into the state budget, knowing that this could trigger a veto by Gov. Chris Sununu. It’s a strange hill upon which to die, considering that there’s no evidence Granite Staters are demanding this specific workplace perk. 

This month the UNH Carsey Center for Public Policy released a report asserting that Granite Staters support guaranteed job protection for paid family and medical leave programs and a 60 percent wage rate while on leave. 

This is about as useful to lawmakers as a ping pong table is to the Night’s Watch. It’s nice to have, but when the real work starts its minimal utility quickly becomes apparent.  

Nowhere did the survey ask whether respondents would prefer paid leave to other benefits such as flexible schedules, more health coverage or higher pay. Nowhere did it ask whether employees would prefer paid leave if it led to lower pay raises or reduced benefits in the future. Nowhere did it ask how much employees would be willing to pay for such a benefit. 

The 2016 UNH poll that purported to show broad support for paid family leave in New Hampshire also left out crucial questions. It did not give respondents the option of choosing from a list of other possible workplace benefits. The only cost it included was $5 per week, which is on the low end of the cost scale for various paid leave programs.

Other polls have asked such questions, and their results do not support the theory that paid leave is so critically important for employees that the state must guarantee it via a mandate and wage tax.

  • A 2017 Pew poll found paid leave statistically tied with more flexible work schedules as the most preferred new benefit, with 28 percent preferring schedule flexibility and 27 percent preferring paid leave. (That poll also found, by the way, that most Americans were satisfied with their workplace benefits and thought their employers cared about them and their well-being.) 
  • A 2017 study by data research firm FRACTL found that employees ranked paid parental leave 8th among a list of 17 benefit options. More popular were better health benefits, more flexible hours, more vacation time, work from home options, unlimited vacation, student loan assistance and tuition assistance.
  • A 2017 survey by payroll and benefits firm JustWorks found that flexible schedules and remote work options were far more popular among employees than unlimited paid time off or parental leave. Fewer than half of employees said unlimited paid time off or paid parental leave were important. 
  • A Cato Institute poll last December found that support for paid leave crashes when people are given the option of considering the costs. In the abstract, 74 percent of Americans support paid leave. But 60 percent oppose paid leave if it would lead to lower future pay raises. 

Paid leave is being pushed on Granite Staters as if it is universally acknowledged as the holy grail of workplace benefits. It isn’t. National polling shows that most employees prefer other benefits to paid leave. And even if it were the most popular benefit, that wouldn’t make it the right benefit for every employee or every employer. 

When employers are forced to offer this particular benefit over all others, employees are then forced to accept this particular benefit instead of others employers might have chosen. There is no compelling case for forcing this choice on all New Hampshire employees. Creating a budget showdown over an entirely unwarranted mandatory benefit would only compound the mistake.  

House Bill 365, scheduled for a Thursday vote in the state Senate, would require utility companies to pay above-market rates for solar power, thus forcing consumers to pay higher costs than necessary for electricity, the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy cautions in a statement released today.
Such anti-consumer subsidies for a specific industry are not necessary for New Hampshire to encourage the development of alternative energy production. Solar technologies are approaching cost parity with more traditional forms of energy production and are increasingly able to compete without subsidies.
For example, Connecticut announced in December that it had entered into contracts with nine solar energy providers (including two based in New Hampshire) for an average cost of 4.9 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), “which is approaching parity with the market price of energy,” the state’s Department of Energy & Environmental Protection pointed out.
HB 365 ignores this trend and would force utilities to buy net-metered solar energy at the default energy rate, which is about 9 cents per kWh. That is more than double the market price of about 4 cents per kWh.
Why would New Hampshire force its own citizens to pay more for solar power than the state of Connecticut is willing to pay?
This forced subsidy runs against the bill’s opening statement, which declares that “New Hampshire’s electricity consumers, including municipalities, manufacturers, commercial businesses, and other large users, strongly support more competitive retail options to lower their energy costs.”
Rather than encouraging alternative energy production that would compete on price, thus lowering energy costs, HB 365 would push prices higher by compelling consumers to buy solar power at above-market rates.
HB 365 represents a wealth transfer from all electricity consumers to net-metered solar energy producers. New Hampshire’s electricity rates are already among the highest in the nation. This bill would make the situation worse, not better — at a time when solar costs are falling and the case for subsidies is falling along with them.

Scientists on Wednesday revealed what they claimed was the first ever photograph taken of a black hole. But this can’t be true because people have been taking pictures of government since the dawn of photography. 

This early photo of the U.S. Capitol was taken in 1846, 70 years before black holes were characterized and 125 years before the first one was discovered.

Black holes famously consume everything within their reach. Government demonstrates a similar appetite.  

Humanity fears the unstoppable power of the black hole. Anything that encounters a black hole is pulled into a dark abyss from which not even light can escape. Slip within one’s reach and doom is certain.

Thankfully, government can only aspire to such inescapable domination. As a creation of man, government can be controlled. But that can be done only by suppressing its natural tendency to expand and consume. 

We do that first by dividing and balancing its power. In this way we turn its power against itself. But that is not enough. We must also control ourselves.

Government will constantly expand as long as we fail to guard against the natural human temptation to increase our own status and authority by enlarging the ravenous, massive force we have created to serve us.   

Resisting this temptation is difficult. Think of all the good a more powerful government might do if only it could be kept in “the right” hands. Giving in to that temptation causes government power to expand, which necessarily causes the power of the governed to shrink. 

It is as The Simpsons explained about black holes in Season 24. 

Sadly, too few people in power take seriously the wisdom passed down by the Founding Fathers — or The Simpsons. 

The day after the release of the black hole photo, the N.H. House of Representatives passed a budget that increases state baseline spending by $382 million and raises taxes and fees by $417 million, as we explained in a report just after news of the black hole photo broke. These are not small, incremental changes. The spending figure is a 14.8 percent increase over fiscal year 2018. 

The House budget aggressively expands the size and power of state government. It’s important to recognize that the House’s disagreement with Governor Chris Sununu is not primarily about services provided. It is about power. 

The best example of this dynamic is the House’s immediate rejection of the governor’s compromise on paid family and medical leave. In the governor’s proposal, that service — a priority of the House majority — could be provided by the private sector through voluntary transactions. There would be no coercion, no tax, no government expansion. The House instantly rejected this option in favor of a mandate, a tax, and an expansion of governmental power. 

The surplus offers another example. The governor had spent the state’s large budget surplus on items that do not fall within the baseline budget. This was to avoid creating obligations on future budgets — obligations that would drive up taxes and expand the size of government. The House instead rolled it into the regular budget, necessitating tax increases.

In sum, the House budget expands both the size and the reach of state government. It enlarges state power and authority in much the same way a black hole grows — by grabbing things that were not previously under its control and absorbing them. When this is the primary motivation of government, all that is just outside of government’s reach ought to be worried.  

 

A new briefing paper from the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy shows that the House’s 2020-2021 budget proposal spends $382.4 million more in state funds than Gov. Chris Sununu’s proposed budget and includes $417.7 million in new taxes and fees. 

The paper shows that the divergence in governing philosophies between the Republican governor and the Democratic House majority could hardly be more stark. 

Sununu’s budget would increase fiscal year 2021 general fund spending by 5.4 percent over fiscal year 2018. The House budget increases spending over the same time period by 14.8 percent.

The tax increases show an equally sharp philosophical divergence. 

Gov. Sununu’s proposed budget contains one expanded tax (extending the tobacco tax to cover electronic cigarettes) and a new fee (a charge on newly allowed sports betting). The House budget also expands the tobacco tax and includes the sports betting fee but also includes hundreds of millions of dollars in new taxes to cover the budget’s spending increases.

The House budget includes a sales tax on marijuana transactions ($4 million), business tax increases ($94.1 million), a new capital gains tax ($150 million), and a new wage tax (payroll tax) to fund a compulsory paid family and medical leave program ($168.6 million). 

Without those new taxes, the House budget does not balance. In fact, it also doesn’t balance without the surplus built up over the last two years.

Both Gov. Sununu and the House spend the current state budget surplus. But the governor treats the surplus as one-time revenue attributable primarily to the immediate stimulatory effects of the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. He therefore dedicates the money to one-time appropriations rather than recurring spending. 

By contrast, the House treats the money as ongoing revenue and uses it to increase baseline state appropriations. Spending it this way requires future tax increases to sustain the higher level of spending, something the governor sought to avoid. 

The House budget would turn state taxation and spending sharply upward and put it on a rising trajectory into the foreseeable future.  

(A previous post in this space failed to account for a relocation of lottery revenues in the governor’s budget. That failure inaccurately put the House spending figure $584 million above the governor’s.)

A copy of the full report in pdf form is here: Budget Visions 2020-21-4.

 

The financial services website WalletHub this week ranked New Hampshire No. 1 in the nation for return on taxpayer investment (ROI). It’s a fascinating ranking primarily because that’s how taxpayer expenditures ought to be ranked but seldom are.

State political and government rankings often tell us how much a state spends on X or how much it taxes X. Those can be useful in the way that price tags are useful. But tags tell us price, not value. (They also can convey social status, sometimes in unexpected ways.)

Value tends to be a better measure. It gets closer to telling you whether the item or service purchased is worth the price. 

Sure, the truck stop has racks full of $3 action movies and $1 hot dogs. The prices are great! But the odds are pretty low that downing a couple of dollar dogs while watching “The Roller Blade Seven” adds value to your Friday night. You’d probably feel better Saturday morning if you spent a little more than $5 on dinner and a movie.

Likewise, getting Derek Jacobi to put on a one-man Hamlet production in your living room would be amazing. But the price would probably be slightly out of reach. Somewhere between these two options — and much closer to the former — is the sweet spot.

The trick is not just to pay more. It’s to find the right balance between inputs and outcomes. The WalletHub report indicates that New Hampshire does an outstanding job balancing costs and services. 

Our neighbors? Not so much. Maine ranks 22nd, Massachusetts 35th, and Vermont 43rd. To put this in scientific terms: LOL, Vermont.

We would quibble with some of WalletHub’s methodology. Hospitals tend to be private-sector institutions and not greatly reflective of public spending, for example. And the research on pre-school “education” shows overwhelmingly that it doesn’t produce long-term educational advantages for students, so pre-school spending is a bad measure of ROI. But a lot of WalletHub’s measures were sensible. 

Interestingly, WalletHub included school choice as a measure. States with school choice programs scored better than states without, indicating that WalletHub’s analysts see a value in giving students alternatives to traditional public schools — even when public schools are of generally high quality. 

Also interesting is that WalletHub measured public school systems by quality, not by expenditures, which is more typical. New Hampshire ranked 4th nationally in its system, which looked more at outcomes than inputs. Spending was not one of the criteria. 

As legislators have busied themselves raising taxes and spending this session, they’d do better for everyone — taxpayers and recipients of government services — if they updated their approach and focused on outputs, not inputs. 

What really matters is return on investment. By that metric, New Hampshire does quite well — precisely because its historical frugality has forced it to focus on spending dollars more efficiently rather than just spending more dollars. 

The Legislature’s Democratic majority is seizing its opportunity. In control of both legislative chambers for only the fifth time since the Civil War (and one of those times involved a tie in the Senate), they are determined to leave their mark on the state. 

Indeed, businesses are looking at the bills passed so far and saying to themselves, “Son of a…that’s gonna leave a mark!

Having campaigned on raising business taxes and forcing businesses to comply with the party’s agenda, Democrats are delivering for their base. The tax-and-regulate agenda is similar to the one being pursued in another New England state this session: Connecticut. 

There, The Hartford Courant reports, “at the state capitol, businesses find themselves outflanked.”  

The regulatory agenda in Hartford includes a higher minimum wage, paid family leave and higher taxes. This is on top of Connecticut’s already high tax and regulatory burden. (It’s almost as if the party is trying to enact a national political agenda at the state level.)

Whenever New Hampshire economic policies can be likened to those of Connecticut, the public should be concerned. 

The Legislature’s agenda has included these recent moves:

  • After passing business tax increases last week, the House this week approved the Senate’s entirely unnecessary mandatory paid leave bill.  The bill would cost the state $6.6 million a year to run and would extract untold millions from the economy by forcing employers to offer one specific benefit that might not be the best fit for the company or its employees.
  • The Senate this week passed a minimum wage increase after the House passed a similar bill last week. Both bills would raise the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour (the Senate’s by 2021 and the House’s by 2022). That represents 60 percent increase in labor costs on entry-level employees for businesses that pay the minimum wage.
  • The House on Tuesday passed bills to ban single-use plastic bags and severely limit the ability of restaurants to serve plastic straws. 
  • On Thursday the House passed a series of energy bills that would put upward pressure on electricity rates by eliminating rebates for price increases associated with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and forcing utilities to subsidize large-scale solar and wind projects through net metering. 
  • Another bill would double the fines for water pollution. 

All of these bills reflect a dramatic philosophical shift in the State House. The Legislature is signaling that it no longer trusts individuals or market forces to produce the economic and societal results preferred by its majority. It trusts only one entity — the government. 

Only three months into this legislative session, New Hampshire is seeing just the beginning of an aggressive effort to give Concord more control over the state’s economy and prevent individuals and businesses from behaving in ways that are contrary to the will of lawmakers.

This shift moves us closer to the mindset that prevails in Hartford. Here, in one graph, is why that’s a bad move. Below is the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s chart showing each New England state’s employment growth rate from Nov. 2017-Nov. 2018. New Hampshire leads New England. Connecticut is in the middle. Vermont, by the way, is last. LOL, Vermont.  

To keep New Hampshire’s economy vibrant and growing, the state needs to continue its light-touch approach. Slouching toward Connecticut will pull us backwards.

In the first 10 weeks of the 2019 legislative session, the New Hampshire House of Representatives passed nearly $310 million in tax and fee increases and $565 million in new spending, Grant Bosse reported at New Hampshire Journal this week. That’s $31 million worth of tax and fee increases and $56.5 million in new spending per week. 

“The full House voted to increase the state’s two largest business taxes, accounting for most of the increased tax revenue in Fiscal Years 2020-2023. But the House has also passed several other pieces of legislation that increase state revenues or expenditures.  If all the bills given House approval were to be signed into law, taxes and fees would increase by $108 million in the next two years, and by $202 million in the following biennium, according to official estimates from the Legislative Budget Assistant’s Office (LBAO).

“Other new revenues come from a tax on mutual funds to pay for a new state college savings program, an increase in OHRV and snowmobile fines, and more than doubling environment fees.

All that revenue doesn’t come close to covering the $565 million in new spending the House has passed so far.

“Spending would jump by $319 million in FY 20-21, and $246 million in FY 22-23. These figures do not capture the full increase in the state budget. In many cases, lawmakers have only appropriated funds for the first year or two on a new program, and the LBAO does not assume that spending in one budget will necessarily be carried over to the next.”

New minimum wage regulations

In addition to raising taxes, primarily on businesses, the Democratic-controlled legislators have moved forward bills to mandate that businesses pay their lowest-skilled employees above-market wages. 

The House on March 14 passed House Bill 186 to raise the minimum wage by 60 percent, to $12 an hour, over the next three years. 

The Senate on March 14 passed Senate Bill 271 to mandate that contractors hired for public works projects pay at least the “prevailing wage” for construction work. 

Both are minimum wage bills that force employers to pay entry-level employees rates typically paid to more experienced employees. As we noted in a policy brief earlier this week, such minimum wage hikes harm the lowest-skilled workers. 

As a 2015 Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco review of minimum wage literature concluded, “the most credible conclusion is a higher minimum wage results in some job loss for the least-skilled workers—with possibly larger adverse effects than earlier research suggested.”

Though these wage mandates are intended to be a forced wealth transfer from businesses to low-income employees, they wind up transferring wealth and opportunities from the lowest-skilled workers to higher-skilled competitors. 

Why would legislators pass a law to move the lowest rung on the economic ladder farther out of reach for the least-skilled workers? 

Politics is a game of stories, not data. The minimum wage story is easy to tell from the vantage point of supporters. They can produce lots of people who tell lawmakers and the press how hard it is to make ends meet doing low-wage work. 

Though opponents have better data, you can’t go to a fast food restaurant and find the employee who wasn’t hired, then bring him to testify to legislators. The data show clearly that minimum wage increases reduce job opportunities for the lowest-skilled workers. But the people who weren’t hired aren’t told that they might have been hired at $8 an hour but not at $12, so they can’t tell that story.

Business owners and managers are being loaded with new expenses (this doesn’t even include the unnecessary paid family leave mandate) that will extract from them hundreds of millions of dollars. If all of these bills become law, it will be hard to see how the state’s jobs boom is not harmed. 

 

Bartlett Brief:

Minimum wage increases hurt the lowest-skilled workers

Legislators on Thursday are preparing to vote on bills to mandate that employers raise wages to levels some politicians find morally appealing. These mandates will hurt the lowest-skilled workers. They also have the potential to raise costs for consumers and taxpayers.

  • House Bill 186 would raise the minimum wage by $2 to $9.50 an hour immediately, then to $10.75 in 2021 and $12 in 2022. Teens younger than 17 could be paid $1 per hour less than the statutory minimum. 
  • Senate Bill 271 would mandate that contractors on state public works projects pay all their workers the prevailing federal wage for the particular construction project. The federal prevailing wage for construction projects in New Hampshire is $10.60 an hour. 

Though intended to benefit low-wage workers, these bills together are likely to harm Granite Staters who are trying to grab that first rung of the economic ladder.

Minimum wage

  • A 2015 Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco review of minimum wage studies confirmed that “the most credible conclusion is a higher minimum wage results in some job loss for the least-skilled workers—with possibly larger adverse effects than earlier research suggested.” 
  • The authors of Seattle’s famous minimum wage study reported last fall that the city’s wage hike raised pay for the most experienced workers but produced a significant reduction in employment among the lowest-skilled workers. “The entirety of these gains accrued to workers with above-median experience at baseline; less-experienced workers saw no significant change to weekly pay.”
  • A recent follow-up to the Seattle study found that the higher minimum wage raised the price of day care. “Providers’ most commonly responded to higher labor costs by raising tuition and reducing staff hours or headcount—strategies that may negatively impact low-income families and staff.” 
  • This podcast interview with University of Washington professor Jacob Vigdor provides a great analysis of the negative effects the wage increase had on Seattle’s lowest-skilled restaurant workers and those trying to enter the job market for the first time.  
  • A 2013 study for the National Bureau of Economic Research showed how minimum wage increases harm lower-skilled workers by eliminating many job opportunities for them. It found that “the minimum wage reduces net job growth, primarily through its effect on job creation by expanding establishments.” Businesses hire fewer people in the long run after governments mandate that they pay low-skilled employees an artificially high wage. 

Prevailing wage

Prevailing wage laws mandate that construction companies pay higher hourly wages to low-skilled employees than they otherwise would. Research on the effects of these laws on total construction costs are mixed. But much of the research is consistent with minimum-wage research showing that the mandates lead to a preference for higher-skilled employees. 

  • Some studies find increased costs for public works projects, as did a recent University of Kentucky study on West Virginia’s repeal of its prevailing wage law and a 2005 study of low-income housing construction costs in California.
  • Other studies, however, show that contractors adjust to mandated labor cost increases by hiring more high-skill, high-productivity employees and using capital to reduce the need for lower-skilled workers. Similar findings have been produced in minimum wage studies of specific industries. Many businesses respond to mandatory labor cost increases by hiring more productive workers and finding ways to reduce their need for the lowest-skilled labor. 
  • As automation takes off in the construction industry, government-mandated higher wages could increase the incentives for contractors to replace lower-skilled workers with machines. A study last year suggested that automation could replace 49 percent of America’s blue collar construction workforce. Self-driving graders and brick-laying robots are among the technologies already making their way onto construction sites.  

Summary 

By artificially inflating the price of low-skilled human labor, prevailing wage and minimum wage laws have the unintended effect of reducing employment opportunities for the lowest-skilled workers while artificially raising pay for people who have had the good fortune to have greater workforce experience. 

Though these wage mandates are intended to be a forced wealth transfer from businesses to low-income employees, they wind up creating a forced wealth transfer from the lowest-skilled workers to higher-skilled competitors. 

A pdf version of this brief can be downloaded here: JBC – Minimum Wage Warning.

Serious misunderstandings about the state’s Education Tax Credit Program seem to be driving the effort to eliminate it. At least, they’re driving the narrative behind that effort. Misconceptions are so pervasive that legislators are repeating them in public statements.

Experienced drivers know that it’s dangerous if even a few people wind up going the wrong way. It’s worse if they persuade others to follow. There is too much misinformation circulating about the program to correct all of it here, but for the moment we can offer a quick summary of how it works and how much money is involved.

The Education Tax Credit Program, passed in 2012, allows businesses and individuals to claim a tax credit for donations made to qualifying scholarship organizations. Deductions may be claimed against the business enterprise and business profits taxes as well as the interest and dividends tax. Tax credits are equal to 85 percent of the donation. So a donation of $1,000 earns a tax credit of $850.

Some critics say this credit far exceeds standard practice. It doesn’t. Donors to the Community Development Finance Authority earn a tax credit equal to 75 percent of their donation.

Donations to this Education Tax Credit Program fund scholarships for low-income families to help cover the cost of education purchased outside of the traditional public school system.

In the current program year, donations to scholarship organizations are capped at $6 million, with a maximum available tax credit of $5.1 million. Some legislators, including the sponsor of HB 632, a bill to eliminate the program, have mistaken these legal maximums for an appropriation from the state budget.

“By reversing this unjust carveout, $6 million currently set aside for the education tax credit program would be appropriated fairly, taking into account all Granite Staters’ needs,” Rep. Joelle Martin, D-Milford, said in testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee in February.

Every part of that statement about the program is incorrect. There is no state money set-aside for the program. And the credits do not come close to totaling $6 million.

Here is how it actually works.

Individuals or businesses donate to the scholarship organization. The donors then give their donation receipts to the Department of Revenue Administration (DRA). The DRA then issues them a credit for 85 percent of the amount of the donation.

The credit is like a coupon. It can be redeemed when a donor files his or her taxes. But to claim it, the donor has to have a tax liability against which to apply the credit. Many donors never use the credit because their business or I&D tax liability is too low.

The Department of Revenue Administration’s Tax Expenditure and Potential Liability Report for fiscal year 2018 lists the total tax credits awarded under the Education Tax Credit Program since its start in 2013. The tax credits through FY 2018 have totaled $797,000.

(Note: The Department of Revenue Administration switched from calendar-year to fiscal-year reporting in 2014. It lists no Education Tax Credits claimed in its 2013 report, but notes that the 2014 figure includes the last six months of 2013.)

Education Scholarship Tax Credits Claimed

FY 2014: $20,000

FY 2015: $115,000

FY 2016: $93,000

FY 2017: $188,000

FY 2018: $381,000

The DRA’s latest report on the program shows that tax credits of $1,405,335 have been claimed through February 11 of this year.

So for the life of the program, only $2.2 million in credits has been claimed. That’s a little more than a third of the amount that the sponsor of HB 632 claimed the program cost annually.

There are many additional misperceptions that are coloring the debate about this program. We will address those in future posts. For now, we hope this clears up a few of the biggest misunderstandings.

The odds that legislators will vote to raise New Hampshire’s minimum wage this year are significantly better than the odds that sitting through next year’s Super Bowl halftime show will be more entertaining than going to the kitchen for more nachos.

Why?

Ideas like this, as expressed by Rep. Howard Moffett, D-Canterbury:
“If there is more money in people’s pockets, they are going to spend more. That will mean more business and they will go and hire more workers. It is a virtuous circle in the economy.”

Some really people believe that taxing businesses (the minimum wage is effectively a tax on hiring low-skilled labor) and transferring the revenue to the least-skilled employees will make those businesses more profitable than if they had been left alone to use that money in more productive ways.

That theory runs counter to the vast majority of work on minimum wages and, even if plausible, as The Atlantic’s Jordan Weissman pointed out a few years ago , its stimulating effects would be short-lived.

New Hampshire’s minimum wage is pegged to the federal minimum, which is $7.25 an hour. A lot of people believe that people who earn this wage make up a large fraction of the labor force and tend to be primary bread-winners working full time to support their families. None of that is true.

Here are five facts about the minimum wage that ought to inform whatever debate there will be on the topic as the legislature decides how much to tax employers for the practice of hiring low-skilled employees.

Nationally, only 2.3 percent of all hourly wage workers earn $7.25 per hour or less, Bureau of Labor Statistics data show. “Minimum wage workers tend to be young,” according to the BLS. “Although workers under age 25 represented only about one-fifth of hourly paid workers, they made up about half of those paid the federal minimum wage or less.” They also tend to be single. Never-married individuals make up 40 percent of those who earn an hourly wage but 68 percent of hourly wage workers who earn a minimum wage. Married individuals are 44 percent of hourly wage workers but only 21 percent of hourly wage workers who earn the minimum wage or less.

Minimum-wage employees tend to work part-time, BLS data show. Although about 75 percent of hourly wage workers hold full-time jobs, only 35 percent hourly employees with a full-time job earn the minimum wage or less. Only 25 percent of hourly workers hold part-time jobs, but 65 percent of hourly workers with part-time jobs earn the minimum wage or less. Of minimum-wage employees, fully 60 percent work part time.

In New Hampshire, the number of minimum wage workers fell by almost half in 2017, dropping from just over 15,000 people in 2016 to just 8,000 in 2017, according to the state Economic and Labor Market Information Bureau. Forty-nine percent of those 8,000 minimum-wage earners were under age 25, and the same percentage worked part-time.

The minimum wage is an entry-level wage typically paid to the lowest-skilled employees, the vast majority of whom work their way to higher pay within a year. A 2013 study by Texas A&M economists for the National Bureau of Economic Research found that “minimum wage compensation is three- and-a half times more prevalent among new workers than in the entire labor force.” Using data for 3.5 million people from 1979-2012, they found that 77.6 percent of people who earned the minimum wage in one year were still employed the following year, and of those 65.85 percent earned more than the minimum wage.

That last study, by the way, also found that “the minimum wage reduces net job growth, primarily through its effect on job creation by expanding establishments.” That is, the minimum wage doesn’t necessarily always produce an instantaneous reduction in jobs. Rather, it suppresses job growth over time, leading to fewer jobs than would otherwise be available.

In other words, it’s a tax on low-skilled labor. And like any tax, it reduces the supply of what is taxed.