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The State of the Gen Y Worker: Working in Retail, Great at Blogging

Lisa Scherzer
Personal Finance Editor
The Exchange

Add another grim statistic to the already grim economic story of today's 20-somethings. They're five times likelier to have a job folding sweaters at Old Navy than in the broad workforce.

Indeed, with diplomas in hand, the Gen Y generation (ages 18 to 29) are carrying mountains of student debt and facing chronic underemployment to boot.

According to a new report by salary data company PayScale.com and Millennial Branding on the state of Gen Y, the majority of Gen Y workers — 63% — have a Bachelor's degree, but the most common jobs they hold are in the retail industry and don't require one. They're more than five times likely than workers overall to be merchandise displayers (median pay of $23,400), 4.6 times more likely to be clothing sales representative ($28,400), and four times likelier to be cell phone reps ($27,800), the report found.

Retail Pays the Rent

"These retail jobs that used to be filled by high school students are now being filled by college graduates, who are using that income to pay the rent," Dan Schwabel, founder of Millennial Branding, in a post on PayScale's Web site.

All point to what we've known for a while: as bad as the employment situation has been for Americans — July's national unemployment rate is 8.3% — it's worse for the younger demographic. The jobless rate for workers age 16-24 was 16.4% last month.

Among the report's other findings:

-    Most Gen Y workers are forgoing the biggest companies in favor of smaller companies. The highest concentration of Gen Y workers (47%) are at small companies with fewer than 100 employees, followed by midsize companies that have no more than 1,500 employees (30%). Just 23% of Gen Y-ers work at large firms with more than 1,500 employees.
-    Out of the 20 largest metro areas in the U.S., Seattle is the best city for Gen Y, primarily because of its concentration of tech companies and strong wage growth.
-    With Mark Zuckerberg as their role model, it's no wonder their most touted talents revolve around social media and technology. According to the report, Gen Y's most common job skills are Tableau software (data analysis software), blogging, social media optimization and writing press releases.
-    The best companies for Gen Y are in the technology industry. The top five — ranked by pay, job stress and satisfaction for Gen Y workers — include Qualcomm, Google, Medtronic, Intel and Microsoft.