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A living wage: example of a price floor

The graph shows how a price floor results from an excess supply of labor.
The original equilibrium in this labor market is a wage of $10/hour and a quantity of 1,200 workers, shown at point E. Imposing a wage floor at $12/hour leads to an excess supply of labor. At that wage, the quantity of labor supplied is 1,600 and the quantity of labor demanded is only 700.
Living wage: example of a price floor
Wage Quantity Labor Demanded Quantity Labor Supplied
$8/hr 1,900 500
$9/hr 1,500 900
$10/hr 1,200 1,200
$11/hr 900 1,400
$12/hr 700 1,600
$13/hr 500 1,800
$14/hr 400 1,900

The minimum wage as an example of a price floor

The U.S. minimum wage is a price floor that is set either very close to the equilibrium wage or even slightly below it. About 1% of American workers are actually paid the minimum wage. In other words, the vast majority of the U.S. labor force has its wages determined in the labor market, not as a result of the government price floor. But for workers with low skills and little experience, like those without a high school diploma or teenagers, the minimum wage is quite important. In many cities, the federal minimum wage is apparently below the market price for unskilled labor, because employers offer more than the minimum wage to checkout clerks and other low-skill workers without any government prodding.

Economists have attempted to estimate how much the minimum wage reduces the quantity demanded of low-skill labor. A typical result of such studies is that a 10% increase in the minimum wage would decrease the hiring of unskilled workers by 1 to 2%, which seems a relatively small reduction. In fact, some studies have even found no effect of a higher minimum wage on employment at certain times and places—although these studies are controversial.

Let’s suppose that the minimum wage lies just slightly below the equilibrium wage level. Wages could fluctuate according to market forces above this price floor, but they would not be allowed to move beneath the floor. In this situation, the price floor minimum wage is said to be nonbinding —that is, the price floor is not determining the market outcome. Even if the minimum wage moves just a little higher, it will still have no effect on the quantity of employment in the economy, as long as it remains below the equilibrium wage. Even if the minimum wage is increased by enough so that it rises slightly above the equilibrium wage and becomes binding, there will be only a small excess supply gap between the quantity demanded and quantity supplied.

These insights help to explain why U.S. minimum wage laws have historically had only a small impact on employment. Since the minimum wage has typically been set close to the equilibrium wage for low-skill labor and sometimes even below it, it has not had a large effect in creating an excess supply of labor. However, if the minimum wage were increased dramatically—say, if it were doubled to match the living wages that some U.S. cities have considered—then its impact on reducing the quantity demanded of employment would be far greater. The following Clear It Up feature describes in greater detail some of the arguments for and against changes to minimum wage.

What’s the harm in raising the minimum wage?

Because of the law of demand, a higher required wage will reduce the amount of low-skill employment either in terms of employees or in terms of work hours. Although there is controversy over the numbers, let’s say for the sake of the argument that a 10% rise in the minimum wage will reduce the employment of low-skill workers by 2%. Does this outcome mean that raising the minimum wage by 10% is bad public policy? Not necessarily.

If 98% of those receiving the minimum wage have a pay increase of 10%, but 2% of those receiving the minimum wage lose their jobs, are the gains for society as a whole greater than the losses? The answer is not clear, because job losses, even for a small group, may cause more pain than modest income gains for others. For one thing, we need to consider which minimum wage workers are losing their jobs. If the 2% of minimum wage workers who lose their jobs are struggling to support families, that is one thing. If those who lose their job are high school students picking up spending money over summer vacation, that is something else.

Another complexity is that many minimum wage workers do not work full-time for an entire year. Imagine a minimum wage worker who holds different part-time jobs for a few months at a time, with bouts of unemployment in between. The worker in this situation receives the 10% raise in the minimum wage when working, but also ends up working 2% fewer hours during the year because the higher minimum wage reduces how much employers want people to work. Overall, this worker’s income would rise because the 10% pay raise would more than offset the 2% fewer hours worked.

Of course, these arguments do not prove that raising the minimum wage is necessarily a good idea either. There may well be other, better public policy options for helping low-wage workers. (The Poverty and Economic Inequality chapter discusses some possibilities.) The lesson from this maze of minimum wage arguments is that complex social problems rarely have simple answers. Even those who agree on how a proposed economic policy affects quantity demanded and quantity supplied may still disagree on whether the policy is a good idea.

Concepts and summary

In the labor market, households are on the supply side of the market and firms are on the demand side. In the market for financial capital, households and firms can be on either side of the market: they are suppliers of financial capital when they save or make financial investments, and demanders of financial capital when they borrow or receive financial investments.

In the demand and supply analysis of labor markets, the price can be measured by the annual salary or hourly wage received. The quantity of labor can be measured in various ways, like number of workers or the number of hours worked.

Factors that can shift the demand curve for labor include: a change in the quantity demanded of the product that the labor produces; a change in the production process that uses more or less labor; and a change in government policy that affects the quantity of labor that firms wish to hire at a given wage. Demand can also increase or decrease (shift) in response to: workers’ level of education and training, technology, the number of companies, and availability and price of other inputs.

The main factors that can shift the supply curve for labor are: how desirable a job appears to workers relative to the alternatives, government policy that either restricts or encourages the quantity of workers trained for the job, the number of workers in the economy, and required education.


Identify each of the following as involving either demand or supply. Draw a circular flow diagram and label the flows A through F. (Some choices can be on both sides of the goods market.)

  1. Households in the labor market
  2. Firms in the goods market
  3. Firms in the financial market
  4. Households in the goods market
  5. Firms in the labor market
  6. Households in the financial market
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Predict how each of the following events will raise or lower the equilibrium wage and quantity of coal miners in West Virginia. In each case, sketch a demand and supply diagram to illustrate your answer.

  1. The price of oil rises.
  2. New coal-mining equipment is invented that is cheap and requires few workers to run.
  3. Several major companies that do not mine coal open factories in West Virginia, offering a lot of well-paid jobs.
  4. Government imposes costly new regulations to make coal-mining a safer job.
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American Community Survey. 2012. "School Enrollment and Work Status: 2011." Accessed April 13, 2015. http://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/acsbr11-14.pdf.

National Center for Educational Statistics. “Digest of Education Statistics.” (2008 and 2010). Accessed December 11, 2013. nces.ed.gov.

Questions & Answers

what is taxation
K.visor Reply
levy paid by eligible individuals and companies to the government
A means by which governments finance their expenditure by imposing charges on citizens and corporate entities. Governments use taxation to encourage or discourage certain economic decisions.
a source of economic revenue in which working citizens pay levy which varies from one individual to the other.
monies paid by residents of a country to the government in which the residents benefit indirectly
it's the government, looking for funding to create public goods and services so that everyone can be happy.
what is taxation?
jacob Reply
In simple term. Taxation can be defined as compulsory payment levy on company or individual by the government. It can be direct or indirect.
what is capital
its nice
it's nice
capital , it is a investment of money or assets which is invested before starting up of the business
its nice
disadvantage of money
Bigdreamz Reply
Please any Ghanaian schooling at KNUST?
Prince Reply
combining factors of production is the role of
Richard Reply
the situation in economic where by a more valuable good is sold at a low price while less valuable good is sold at a higher price .how can we describe this situation in economic
price discrimination
deman and supply
price discrimination
causes of high elasticity of demand
Onyango Reply
causes of high elasticity of supply
what is optimazation
what is trade offs
A trade-off  is a situational decision that involves diminishing one quality, or property of a design in return for gains in other aspects.
what is indifference curve ?
its represnted by the loops of points and gives same level of satisfaction
what is enterpreneurship
Entrepreneurship is the talent, knowledge and willingness individual has to engage in an activity that can result in new kind of firm
what is the short run industry supply curves?
I think there' s a mistake. P = - 0.4 + 0.2Qs is the supply curve and not the demand curve. Am I correct?
Valeria Reply
Qs is quantity supplied
This is what I think
this eaquation is supply curve Qs=P-0.4 the relationship is positive when the price increase the Qs increase....
since Qs is quantity supplied P= -0.4 + 0.2Qs =>P +0.4=0.2Qs =>P/0.2 + 0.4=Qs I made Qs the subject of the formula or equation. So your answer is correct
P = -0.4 + 0.2Qs is the same as P/0.2+0.4=Qs Price has a direct relationship with the quantity supplied i.e the higher the price the higher the quantity supplied. that is why it is +0.4(this is the quantity and it is postive) and P/O.2(is the price and it is positive).
For the demand equation let me give an example 0.2P-0.4=Qd. Here the P is postive(+0.2) and the quantity which is -O.4 is negative( because of the negative sign(-) there is an inverse relationship between price and quantity. For quantity demanded the higher the price the lower the quantuty.
It's how I understand it
0.2P-0.4=Qd. the equation is wrong because the price have direct ralationship Quantity demanded but the correct equation is-0.2P -0.4=Qd so the higher price the lower Quantity
I think the relationship is inverse because of the negative sign(-)
ok You mean the price and quantity demanded should be negative(inverse relationship) for Qd and the price and quantity supplied should be postive(direct relationship) for Qs
thank you for the correction
yes because it got a positive gradient of +0.2
This is the mistake I found: "Since P is on the vertical axis, it is easiest if you solve each equation for P. The demand curve is then P = 8 – 0.5Qd and the demand curve is P = –0.4 + 0.2Qs. Note that the vertical intercepts are 8 and –0.4, and the slopes are –0.5 for demand and 0.2 for supply."
dear price do not depend on quantity. rather quantity depends on price. so the equation should be Qty=0.2Px-0.4
please can someone generate supply equation for me
David Reply
where p is price, Pr is price of related goods, G is goals of a firm E is supplier's future expectation of prices,Z is other related factors, Pf is cost of factors of production.
I think it's wrong
if Qd=90-p Qs=90+p
the coefficient of price must be positive since supply curve is positively slopping
it's true. thank you
OK, thank you
no one can do that, you must determine the the key factors for the commodity, like price, income, prices of alternative commodity, and other factors, if you want the main equation, you must have 4 values, 2 values for each quantity and price, for one commodity
What is the acceptable definition of economic?
bilya Reply
The economics is the optimal use for the resources, this is general definition, but from my point view it is the production,
diagram of perfectly inelastic
Muhd Reply
this platform is okay
chi-square test is used to test A. Analysis of variance B. Association between the qualitative variables C. Difference between means of two distribution drawn from the same population D. Difference between the means of two distribution drawn from different population
Syk Reply
the Answer Should Be D
The answers is D
Thank you
What is economic?
is the system that study the difference between resources and the growth population
Economics studies humanbehaviour as a relation between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses
rigth .....but economic has different concepts
what is equilibrium
Obed Reply
it is that point where price is equal to output or rather a point where demand is equal to supply
it is a point where consumer get maximum satisfaction and producers maximise profit or minimise loss
supply equal demand in one point
it's a point where supply and demand meets/equal whether profit or loss
how to compute budget constraint
Kristine Reply
how to calculate balance of payment deficit
How to calculate National income
what is indifference curves
what,how and for whom to produce
kunle Reply
those are problem that producer face in the process of production due to scarcity
a particular selected product is produced in a systematic hygiene condition and is produced for the customers.
what are the factors of economic growth?
Povuuro Reply
tax, imports and exports, etc

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