2014-05-16

Co.Exist

Why Job Prospects For Millennials Are Still Dreadful

The economy may be recovering, but the youngest workers entering the job market may never recover at all.

You've heard the economy is getting better, that companies are hiring again, and that we're finally putting the recession behind us. But don't get too happy. For recent grads entering the job market today, things are still bad, going on desperate. The official numbers don't necessarily tell the whole story.

The overall unemployment rate fell to 6.6% recently, its lowest point for more than five years. But the rate for under-25s is more than double that (14.5%) and about a million people aren't counted, according to a new paper from the Economic Policy Institute. These missing workers are neither employed nor actively seeking work. But if you included them, the under-25 rate would rise to 18.1%, or three times the overall figure.

What's more, the EPI says many recent graduates (both high school and college) are under-employed: they have work, but not enough to live the life of someone working full-time, especially someone working full-time with benefits (an increasingly rare breed of individual). The under-employment rate has doubled since 2007, and is now 41.5% among high school graduates ages 17 to 20:

It's normal during recessions for youth unemployment to be higher than for other groups. What's different now is that young people aren't "sheltering in school," probably because the cost of college is so high. There was barely any increase in university enrollment between 2007 and 2012, and the numbers for 2012 actually show a decline:

Moreover, college graduates aren't picking up work reflecting with their skills or learning. In 2012, 44% under the age of 27 were working a job not requiring a university degree, up from 38% in 2007.

Read more: If You Graduated After 1976, You Are Getting Screwed By The Economy

The scariest thing is that the recession is likely to have long-term effects, the EPI says. Even if people who have struggled to find work now find it, they'll still likely to be behind where they could, or should, be. "Research shows that entering the labor market in a severe downturn can lead to reduced earnings, greater earnings instability, and more spells of unemployment over the next 10 to 15 years," the paper says.

This is why people refer to a "lost generation." These are people who haven't had the start they should have had, and now have to compete with new cohorts entering the economy this year. Pity the classes of '07 through '12. They were unlucky to be born when they were.

[Image: Sunflower field via Shutterstock]

Add New Comment

10 Comments

  • This is a terrible article. Great note to leave off of at the end too "Pity the classes of '07 through '12. They were unlucky to be born when they were." Seriously? I was in one of those "unlucky classes" and I am seeing opportunity around me right and left for myself and my peers. Yes some people are at a disadvantage because of their family's economic status or the area they grew up in but those are things every generation has will always deal with. My generation is looking at a completely different job landscape then the person who wrote this article. We are eyeing niche opportunities with smaller businesses. No we aren't jumping the gun to be corralled into huge companies and sell sell sell! We are taking the opportunity to go to other countries, travel, and volunteer for a greater good. Taking internships or building our own businesses! Frankly no matter what generation you are from if you aren't willing to gain skills and work to the best of your ability you probably aren't going

  • Well said Danielle...we are all to often quick to judge on what we believe to be the 'ideals' even if of generations before us. I quite agree, the landscape and way we conduct business has changed for good! What I see and hear from the emerging professionals that I work with is that they are seeking to match their values with that of an organization that values them as human beings first! The rest will come!

  • I trained in computer programming in the 1980s in time for the computer industry to collapse in the 1990s. I'm a child of the late 60s and I have struggled all my life to find work. I've retrained and retrained and each time I have retrained the industry I have retrained for has collapsed just as I qualify.

  • My son opted to go to trade school for a semester, then started to work for a construction contractor. He wants to eventually go to college and study Russian but didn't see the practicality in that, unless he could take a pay-as-you-go approach.

    He likes his job and learning about construction and sees firsthand how the industry needs good dependable employees. This is an opportunity for him to work, and go to college, and make something of himself. If the Russian thing doesn't work out, he can always fall back on the trades, which are hurting for trained, dependable people.

    I think this is the way that young people should go. Waiting around for society, for our do-nothing politicians and government bureaucrats, to "enable" them towards employment, is a lose-lose proposition.

    Science and technology is perhaps the one area where young people can find gainful and quick employment. However, our society favors easy, quick riches over the hard work of learning math & science.

  • The reason there are no opportunities is because the Underemployment rate is almost 15%. These numbers about the economy improving are nothing short of fictitious.

  • As a graduate of '11, I would like to ask the readers to please not pity me or my generation. The problem I've seen isn't that companies aren't hiring, it's that graduates picked an undesirable degree, went to an unknown school, were unlucky or unmotivated in picking up some real world experience along the way, or the likely combination of all three. Does someone still deserve employment despite being unable to demonstrate marketable skills? College is a time to build connections and gain experience. Students need to take advantage of their career fairs and internship programs. I personally know people who just never bothered with these steps and they don't make a big deal out of it at all. So it's easy for me not to feel bad for them. I was missing class to go on interviews and work part time. Nowhere in this article does the author try to assess what type of careers or education "millennials" are seeking, concluding that rising unemployment simply accounts for rising unemployment.

  • Not sure if I agree with you completely. Graduate of '10 with a professionally accredited degree (Urban Planning) from one of Canada's top universities and top Canadian planning program (undergrad level). I graduated with honours, co-op work experience (4 terms + working for ~1 years for the university as a researcher), had scholarships under my belt and a built up a large network and myriad of good references. It still took me months to find employment, and it was only temporary employment. 6 years later, I switched careers and am now employed but in an industry that in many places is still considered a trade. It took some of my friends years ago find steady work, and some of my friends have masters and still can't find work. All in a field that is in demand and from well known schools.

    Some millennials might use the economy as an excuse, but the issue is still real and relevant.

  • John Young

    From my experience it all comes down to work experience, degrees don't have much weight any more, as I found out. A college degree will qualify you to apply for the job but you won't get that call unless you have that work experience.