Newsflash: Entry-Level Jobs pay Entry-Level Wages

In conjunction with recent protests for a $15 minimum wage in the fast food industry, activist groups blogged and tweeted that “7 out of the top 10 lowest paying jobs” are in the food and hospitality industry. It’s far less shocking than it sounds.

Census Bureau data show that this industry is the largest employer of entry-level employees (defined as 16-24 year-olds without a high school diploma). One-third of the country’s entry-level employees receive their paycheck from a food or hospitality employer—no other industry comes close. Regarding restaurants specifically—which were the subject of so much ire in the weeks’ protests–five of the ten most popular entry-level occupations are food-service jobs.

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Think of it this way: What if someone told you that the bulk of the country’s lower-paying jobs are concentrated in the same industry that the bulk of Americans receive early work experience? You’d probably say, “Duh!” These employees start at the bottom of the wage scale because they’re starting at the bottom of the career ladder. But they’re not stuck there: Two-thirds receive a raise in 1-12 months on the job.

Of course, you need job experience to receive a raise, and you can’t get experience without a job. Yet that’s exactly what will happen if the activists who misuse this information get their way on a $15 minimum wage.