If adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage of 1968 would be $10.90 today. That is a whopping reduction of the federal minimum wage by a third. It’s worth noting that the unemployment rate was 3.6 percent in 1968 with a higher real minimum wage. So the unemployment rate is higher today — at 5 percent — than it was in 1968, while the real minimum wage is lower today than it was in 1968.
Moreover, the minimum wage in the U.S. is well below that of other advanced countries. The Economist estimates that the minimum wage should be about $12 an hour in the U.S based on our GDP. That makes a lot of sense, especially because $10.90 would put it just where it was in 1968. If we add a little extra to the minimum wage for the growth in productivity, $12 seems to be a conservative estimate of where the lower bound of workers’ wages should be. In addition to the 1.3 million people working at minimum wage, there are another 1.7 million working below minimum wage (tipped employees) and an additional 21 million employees who are working just above the minimum, but below $10 an hour. They would also be affected, because their pay is pegged to the minimum wage. So an increase in the minimum wage would affect a third of the labor force being paid an hourly basis.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Column: Why raising the minimum wage is good economics | PBS NewsHour