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Here’s Why Millennials Are Falling Behind In Today’s Economy

photo by Light Brigading via Flickr 

Eight years after the great recession, millennials are still experiencing a steady wage decline over nearly all major occupations.

Despite the economic downturn, which has resulted in 20 million unemployed young adults between 16 to 24 in the U.S., there are currently 50 million (34 percent of total) millennials (adults ages 18 to 34) in the workforce–a growing number that is expected to comprise 50 percent (pdf) of the workforce by 2020.

Using data derived from the Census Current Population Survey, economists at the Young Invincibles have helped paint a real and worrisome portrait of the up and coming generation’s economic status.

Below are five key points for you to know.

1. For millennials, retail and and hospitality wages have fallen by more than 10 percent

The wage decline in these particular arenas is of particular concern to young millennials ages 18 to 24, since combined, these sectors (pdf) account for nearly a quarter of the demographics jobs.

The concentration of young millennials in such sectors has much to do with the demographic’s post-secondary pursuits, with 40 percent of millennials ages 18-24 enrolled in college.

2. Wages aren’t being slashed, they’re failing to keep up

Though it may be logical to attribute wage decline to employers actively slashing salaries, in actuality they’re merely failing to keep up with inflation.

This means that millennials progressing through the workforce are earning less than their older counterparts did at the same age.

3. For 18 to 24-year-olds, four of the top five most common occupations have seen a decrease or stagnation in wages

These occupations include:

  • Retail and wholesale
  • Leisure and hospitality
  • Professional and business
  • Education

In retail and wholesale–one of the most millennial-saturated occupations–18 to 24-year-olds have seen their wages decline by $2,000 per year (pdf) since the recession.

4. Healthcare is one of the few sectors to see some progress

Healthcare, due in part to government expansion and the rotation of aging baby boomers into retirement, was a point of optimism for millennials in the job market.

According to the report, while older millennials saw marginal improvement in the field, young millennials have been one of the biggest beneficiaries of a growing healthcare market.

18 to 24-year-olds have seen a nearly 12 percent (pdf) increase in wages since the recession in 2007.

5. Manufacturing jobs pay the most among the top five occupations for millennials

For 25 to 34-year-old millennials, manufacturing jobs have outpaced (pdf) even professional and business sectors with a median salary of about $35,000 per year.

Ironically, this sector, unlike others often requires little to no advanced postsecondary training, unlike healthcare and business.

The takeaway

The report offers little in the way of consolation for the future of millennials. With the millennial generation staying with their employers for a longer period of time than their predecessors, experts fear that young workers may be locked into these low paying occupations for longer, which may have lasting consequences on the economy.

Additionally, according to Whitehouse.gov, gravitating between occupations has often been a major driver of increased wages, leading some to fear that millennials’ longer tenure at any given occupation could spell continued wage decline.

To help curtail the economic stagnation of millennials, some key steps, which include:

  • Informing prospective college students and their families about paying for their education, as well as choosing an in-demand field
  • Increasing the number of apprenticeships for growing fields
  • Training high school counselors in financial aid literacy and career counseling to help increase the chance of students making better postsecondary decisions
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