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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.

Problems

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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References

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 z international trade
ntaate Reply
The exchange of produce and services among different countries.
Anamaya
the exchange of good & services across international boundaries
WILSON
Compare and contrast between Natural and Artificial Resources and their ultimate impacts in an economy. Give one example to support your discussion.
Angela Reply
Exemple: Diamant or uranium, fer, calcaire
Ramadan
how does interest rate affect aggregate output
kelvin Reply
what is Keynesian theory
kelvin
need a curves for typical isoquost and isoquant
kelvin
what is isoquant
kelvin
isoquat is a curve shows differnt combinations of two inputs which can produce same level of output
Majid
examples of giffen goods
Getrude
then what isoquost
Peter
, if the price of an essential food staple, such as rice, rises it may mean that consumers have less money to buy more expensive foods, so they will actually be forced to buy more rice.
Peter
that's an example
Peter
majid Khan that's the wrong definition of isoquant
The
you are defining isocost
The
isocost curve is a locus of points that shows the different combinations of commodities purchased by a consumer with a fixed budget
The
The change in fiscal policy leads to an increased level of output and interest rates is because an increase in government expenses directly affects aggregate demand. A decline in taxes result in more disposable income, consequently leading to a rise in consumption expenditure.
Peter
dats for kelvin
Peter
dats d answer for the audio how does interest rate affect aggregate output
Peter
question not audio
Peter
u are right joker
Peter
what is journal entry?
Abel
explain the nature of economics
Matilda Reply
interpret micro economic issues
Matilda
ito ang dami ng producto na nais handa at kanyang ibenta ng isang prodyuser
Jomar Reply
i dont understand
Gaabshe
even I also don't understand ..this language.. vn I converse everybody say farzana ur language is not understood by all user? now no one there is question about it?
shaikh
he is saying that "this is the amount of product it wants to be ready and sells by a producer"
Aman
I Merr has knowledge,which is the economiccircuit role in a society
Ramadan
What is diminishing returns?
Shadrach Reply
explain competitive demand
ADENIJI Reply
the demand that are compiting for sale. the buyer can substitute one for another good
Iftikhar
yg
Margarette
the demand where commodities fight for the market. in this type of demand, commodities can be substituted for the most suitable one subject to ( price, consumers choice, consumers income etc)
WILSON
Demand is said to be competitive when a commodity that is needed to satisfy wants in place of another similar goods. increase in price of a commodity X will result in increase in demand of the substitute (commmodity Y).
yusuf
examples of giffen goods are garri (cassava), maize
yusuf Reply
what is Public Finance?
kweku Reply
it's basically the field of economics that deals with the government's involvement in the economy; from spending to maybe interest rate manipulation, etc.
Matthew
examples of giffen goods
Getrude
i want to get the solutions of problems how i get kindly give guidance
Syeda Reply
please give some suggestions about getting solutions of all chapters...
Syeda
hard work
Iftikhar
and the grace of God
The
knowledge skills
MUSA
Syeda Economics is difficult. No all fields are difficult
The
what is Keynesian
AKINOLA
Keynesian economics is the theory proposed by Keynes( an economist). He proposed to manipulate demand side factors to bring economy out of depression in 1930s.
Champro
whose totaly oppossid the government intervention and give importance to agreegad demand
Iftikhar
Good afternoon my fellow forum brothers and sisters
Abdullahi Reply
no just want to know true God
Suprim
Good afternoon!!
Martha
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Suprim
what is facing trade offs
Nancy Reply
It is giving up a commodity to purchase another commodity
The
for example, when we have two commodities like chicken and turkey you can trade off of give up chicken to purchase turkey
The
that can also be called foregone goods
AKINOLA
it like opportunity cost
AKINOLA
it's like trade by batter
Abdullahi
Do you transform into thesecourses, in french people?
Ramadan
I can just speak french andI can just speak french and no english
Ramadan
what is elastic
Tida Reply
elastic is the change in to price and change in demand
ehtesham
Is the percentage change in quantity demand and quantity supply.
Robert
Or percentage change in price of demand and supply
Robert
Right
ehtesham
Robert Mensah you are explaining elasticity of demand
The
robert i think he talk about elastic releated to elasticity of price a proportionate change in price over qd
Iftikhar
can anyone explain what happrn her i don't understand anything
Brahim
is the percentage change in demand as price change
MUSA
sometimes price is elastic,inelastic
The
price elasticity is different from price being elastic
The
elasticity is not always the percentage change in demand as a result of changes in price. there's income elasticity and cross elasticity so it's not necessarily always price
The
elastic is when a change in price of a commodity results in a relatively a larger proportion change in the quantity demand of the commodity
Nancy
what is inelastic
Tida Reply
price is said to be inelastic when it is less than 1
The
what is national income accounting
Aisha Reply
National income is the income earned by all factors of production..
Majid
So this benefits the workers or the businesses?
Neil
Like whose income are we talking about here
Neil
what is multiplier
Khalid
Good & services manufactured in a country with in one year is calld national income
Fani
incom earned by using of sources of production is national income while i dont know the accounting insuch
Iftikhar
neil and aisha can u explain the turm accounting in such question
Iftikhar
I think when we include accounting national income accounting is the measurement of total goods and services produced in an economy in a given period of time
The

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Source:  OpenStax, Principles of economics. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11613/1.11
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