Workforce Woes? Don’t Blame Millennials or Granny

Gen Y is first to face new demands for education, skill and a bad economy — a much higher cliff to climb than previous generations.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 30: A job seeker holds a pamphlet during a job and career fair at City College of San Francisco southeast campus on May 30, 2013 in San Francisco, California. Hundreds of job seekers attended a career fair hosted by the San Francisco Southeast Community Facility Commission. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
National Journal
Anthony P. Carnevale, Andrew R. Hanson, And Artem Gulish
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Anthony P. Carnevale, Andrew R. Hanson, and Artem Gulish
Oct. 30, 2013, 2 a.m.

Ed­it­or’s note: Three re­search­ers at Geor­getown Uni­versity’s Cen­ter on Edu­ca­tion and the Work­force have pro­duced a new re­port, “Fail­ure to Launch: Struc­tur­al Shift and the New Lost Gen­er­a­tion.” We asked them to point out the find­ings they found most in­ter­est­ing, from their point of view as re­search­ers or as in­di­vidu­als watch­ing Amer­ica’s chan­ging demo­graph­ics.

In re­sponse, here are five top-level in­ter­pret­a­tions they shared, fol­lowed by ex­cerpts of key find­ings from the re­port.

Geor­getown re­search pro­fess­or An­thony P. Carne­vale has also served as dir­ect­or of GU’s Cen­ter on Edu­ca­tion and the Work­force since its found­ing in 2008.

Long-term struc­tur­al eco­nom­ic changes have cre­ated a new phase in the trans­ition from youth de­pend­ency to adult in­de­pend­ence. Mil­len­ni­als are launch­ing their ca­reers later and are tak­ing longer to get trac­tion in full-time jobs that pay a liv­ing wage. It takes mil­len­ni­als un­til age 30 to reach the middle of the wage dis­tri­bu­tion, com­pared with age 26 for baby boomers, who launched their ca­reers more than 30 years ago. Mean­while, baby boomers are delay­ing re­tire­ment.

CEW re­search­er ana­lyst An­drew R. Han­sonEven though they’re work­ing longer, baby boomers aren’t crowding mil­len­ni­als out of jobs. Baby-boom re­tire­ments will cre­ate 31 mil­lion job open­ings over the next dec­ade, more job open­ings per young adult than there were in the 1990s, when youth em­ploy­ment was more ro­bust.

It’s not about mil­len­ni­als’ cul­ture or work eth­ic. Mil­len­ni­als aren’t em­ployed at lower rates be­cause they’re lazy or bad at math — they’re the most edu­cated gen­er­a­tion ever. But they’re also the first gen­er­a­tion to face the new de­mands for edu­ca­tion and skill and a bad eco­nomy — a much high­er cliff to climb than pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions.

Young adults need more edu­ca­tion, but, at cur­rent pro­ductiv­ity rates, we can’t af­ford it. Our abil­ity to in­crease edu­ca­tion­al at­tain­ment de­pends on re­form­ing our edu­ca­tion and train­ing sys­tems. The Wyden-Ru­bio Stu­dent Right to Know Be­fore You Go Act would the first step in de­vel­op­ing a mod­ern­ized sys­tem that pro­motes trans­par­ency in the align­ment between post­sec­ond­ary pro­grams and ca­reer path­ways.

CEW re­search ana­lyst Artem Gul­ish­From the re­port and a Power­Point present­a­tion pos­ted to Slide­Share:

“¢ The em­ploy­ment rate for young adults (ages 21 to 25) de­clined from 84 per­cent to 72 per­cent between 2000 and 2012.

“¢ Young adults’ par­ti­cip­a­tion in the labor force has de­clined since the 1990s and now is at its low­est point since 1972.

“¢ The three young co­horts hav­ing the toughest time achiev­ing me­di­an wages: men, Afric­an-Amer­ic­ans, high school gradu­ates.

“¢ By race, the age at which young people reach the me­di­an wage rose at the fol­low­ing rates, between 1980 and 2012: Afric­an Amer­ic­ans, from 26 to 33; His­pan­ics 25 to 28; and whites 26 to 31.

“¢ In 1980, young men made 85 per­cent of the me­di­an wage; in 2012, that had fallen to 55 per­cent. Dur­ing the down­turn, they were un­em­ployed at a rate note seen since the De­pres­sion.

“¢ The share of men in their late 20s who worked full time fell from 80 per­cent in 2000 to 65 per­cent in 2012; in com­par­is­on, for wo­men 26 to 30, the de­cline was from 56 per­cent to 50 per­cent.

“¢ The peak un­em­ploy­ment rate, in 2010, for young Afric­an-Amer­ic­ans at its peak was 30 per­cent; for His­pan­ics, it was 20 per­cent; for whites it was 14 per­cent.

“¢ The rate of de­cline in full-time em­ploy­ment rate in the 12 years end­ing 2012 ranged from 8 per­cent to 14 per­cent: high school grads fell from 66 per­cent to 53 per­cent; some col­lege, or with an as­so­ci­ate’s de­gree, from 69 per­cent to 55 per­cent; and bach­el­or’s from 78 per­cent to 70 per­cent.

“¢ Baby boomers are re­main­ing em­ployed longer. From 1983 to 2012, the em­ploy­ment rate for those ages 55 to 64 rose from 52 per­cent to 61 per­cent. “In­vest­ing in edu­ca­tion and train­ing pro­grams for the young isn’t to the det­ri­ment of the old, but pri­or­it­iz­ing con­sump­tion in gov­ern­ment budgets will likely crowd out in­vest­ments in youth in the near fu­ture if cur­rent trends con­tin­ue.”

The Geor­getown Uni­versity Cen­ter on Edu­ca­tion and the Work­force is an in­de­pend­ent, non­profit re­search and policy in­sti­tute that stud­ies the link between in­di­vidu­al goals, edu­ca­tion and train­ing cur­ricula and ca­reer path­ways. The Cen­ter is af­fil­i­ated with the Geor­getown Mc­Court School of Pub­lic Policy. For more, vis­it CEW on Face­book and @Cntred­wrk­frce on Twit­ter.

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