While the Millennial generation born from 1981 to 1996 is more highly educated than preceding generations, their education is not necessarily leading to higher-paying jobs — or even to any job at all. According to a study recently released by the Pew Research Center, 30% of Millennial men between the ages of 18 and 33 have no job. Approximately 8% are unemployed and 22% are not engaged in the workforce at all.
Those are staggering numbers compared to previous generations at the same point in their lives. Men from those generations maintained an almost constant 20% jobless rate. Generation X men (born from 1965 to 1980), Baby Boomer men (born from 1946 to 1964) and men of the Silent Generation (born from 1928 to 1945) all had a 78% employment rate between the ages 18 and 33, while Millennial men dropped to a 68% employment rate.
Those in the Armed Forces are not shown in the data (thus the percentages do not add up to 100%), but there does not seem to be an obvious effect from the transition from the military draft to today’s volunteer Armed Forces.
Did women take these jobs? Succinctly put, no… and in fact, more Millennial women are unemployed than Generation X women were during the same working years of 18–33. However, the changing role of women in society is reflected in the generational data.
In the Silent Generation, the majority of women were unemployed during the ages 18-33, with 59% not participating in the workforce at all. Another 4% were considered unemployed. The 1960s and the Baby Boomer generation almost reversed the ratios, with 40% of women either unemployed or out of the labor force altogether. Generation X reached a 31% level of jobless women, but Millennial women have seen their jobless number increase to 37%. The current number of 6% unemployed is the most in all four generations.
While Millennial men may have been hit harder, the overall impact cannot be denied — there are far more people in their prime working years who are out of the labor force in the Millennial generation than there were in other generations. The “slacker” label may apply to a few, but it is unfair to apply the term to the entire generation. There simply are not enough jobs available.
The study suggests that while every generation has lived through a difficult economic period, as the Millennials did during the Great Recession, the recovery from the Great Recession has been unusually weak with respect to jobs. The unemployment rate has been falling, but the amount of people not participating in the labor force at all is unusually high as reflected in the U-6 cumulative unemployment rate — and the Pew study aligns with those results.
Consider that this study does not even consider the underemployed — those who have a job that is below their skill and/or educational level but are forced to keep that job for lack of opportunities in their chosen field.
Undoubtedly, there are some Millennials looking at their college degrees and wondering if welding school or an electrical apprenticeship may have been the way to go. The combination of spiraling college costs and subsequent higher debt, along with more graduates fighting for fewer jobs, has been particularly rough on this generation. We hope that the economic recovery kicks into a higher gear over the next few years, and that Millennials will finally begin to see the fruits of their educational labors.