The jobs market is improving, according to government data released Thursday, but millennials are still left out in the cold. They’re suffering more than any other age group, new research finds.
Some 40% of unemployed workers are millennials, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce released to MarketWatch, greater than Generation X (37%) and baby boomers (23%). That equates to 4.6 million unemployed millennials — 2 million long-term — 4.2 million unemployed Xers and 2.5 million jobless baby boomers.
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“I was surprised by how high that number is for millennials,” says Andrew Hanson, research analyst at Georgetown University, who conducted the analysis. “Unemployment is becoming a youth problem.”Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce analysis
The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 6.1% in June from 6.3% in May, the government announced Thursday, adding 288,000 jobs. Average hourly earnings rose 2% on the year in June, while consumer price inflation rose 2.1% between May 2013 to May 2014. But the unemployment rate for 18-29 year olds, including those who have given up looking for work, is 15.2% in June, according to a calculation by Generation Opportunity, a non-profit think-tank based in Arlington, Va. “The headline figure for unemployment doesn’t tell the whole story,” says Dan Schawbel, author of “Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success” and founder of Millennial Branding, a management and consulting firm.
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Since the recession, the youngest job-hunters are being beaten by the oldest. The number of jobs held by baby boomers rose by 9% from 2007 to 2013, a gain of 1.9 million jobs, while the millennial workforce only snagged 110,000 jobs, up 0.3%, according to new analysis by software firm CareerBuilder and labor market data and software firm Economic Modeling Specialists International. (Generation X jobs fared worse, dropping 2.6 million, or 1%.)
“Entry-level jobs were choked off after the recession and those that were open were highly competitive,” says CareerBuilder spokesman Ryan Hunt.Ashley Meyer Ashley Meyer’s compensation can be unpredictable because she works on commission, but her job does provide health benefits and a 401(k).
Ashley Meyer, 28, is one of the luckier ones. She graduated from Salem State College with a Bachelor of Science degree in communications with a minor in graphic design in 2010 and planned to go into advertising, but could not survive on freelance work. She has a job, working for $10.65 an hour at a department store in Peabody, Mass. “At least I have health benefits and a 401(k),” she says. “I need to be able to pay my bills.” Her paycheck, however, can vary dramatically week to week, as the lion’s share of her income is based on commission. “It can be very, very good and very, very bad,” she says.
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Delayed career starts could impact the earning potential of a generation of Americans. The average worker today doesn’t earn the national median salary until the age of 30; in 1980, workers reached that point in their careers at age 26, Hanson says. One reason: Between 1987 and 2000, 30 million net jobs were added in the U.S., but when many millennials were entering the workforce between 2000 and 2013 only 4 million jobs were added. “Young people are the first to be let go by companies in a recession and the last to be let back in,” he adds.Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce analysis
And young men may also fare worse than young women. “With structural changes in the economy, there’s been a gradual decline in blue-collar jobs, which used to give more young men traction at an earlier age,” Hanson says. “Men especially have been failing to beat these entry-level standards in the labor market,” he says. Job seekers increasingly need a bachelor’s or more to compete in the labor market. Indeed, the male/female ratio of job losses during the recession was 2.6 to 1, partly because women held more jobs in less cyclical industries, according to the Labor Department.
The high level of unemployment could leave a generation of disillusioned young voters — a sizable block. Only 25% of 18- to 29-year-olds will “definitely be voting” in the midterm elections in November, down from 34% five months ago, according to an April 2014 poll carried out by the Harvard University Institute of Politics. Some 47% of 18- to 29-year-olds say they approved of the performance of President Obama, a drop from 54% a year earlier. Millennials also make up a considerably powerful group. There are 89 million millennials compared with 49 million Generation Xers and 75 million baby boomers.
But as the job market is improving, some say millennials may actually be in the pole position. “When an employer has a choice to fill a position, age is important because older workers demand higher salaries,” Schawbel says. “From a budgeting perspective, someone who is younger, cheaper and more tech savvy can have an advantage.” Meyer has started looking for receptionist and administration work, but remains optimistic. “There are a lot of us in the same boat,” she says. “It’s not like I’m 50 and trying to start a career. It won’t be the end of the world if I don’t start my career until I’m 32. I’m waiting it out.”
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Quentin Fottrell is a personal finance reporter for MarketWatch based in New York. You can follow him on Twitter @quantanamo.
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