Youth Unemployment Is Higher Than You'd Expect

February 5th 2015

Ashley Nicole Black

Today was a good day for the American economy as the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported yet another robust month of job growth on the heels of two great months preceding it.
The downside? Youth employment. The unemployment rate among young people (ages 18-34) has remained stubbornly high -- it's 7.8 percent while the national average is 5.7 percent. More troubling, Black young people are dealing with an unemployment rate that's 2.5 times higher (15.5 percent) than their white peers.
Youth Unemployment Rates
Are you a Millennial Job Hopper?
Because Millennials have come of age during a recession and time of stagnant economic growth, we have a unique perspective.
How many jobs have you had so far? How long to you intend to stay at your current job? Some think your answers to these questions may be influenced by the year you were born. If you are a Millennial, you are probably aware that you belong to the most studied and criticized generation.
Studies show that some recruiters and employers are reluctant to hire Millennials because of negative stereotypes about the way we work. Now research shows that Millennials only intend to stay in the same job for less than three years. For traditional employers, too many lines on a resume can make a potential employee seem like more of a risk. Employers may be unwilling to put resources into training someone they assume will only stick around for a couple of years. 
Add to that all of the stereotypes about Millennials being self-centered, lazy brats who live at home with their parents and you can see why many in Generation Y may have a difficult time finding employment. There is a perception that Millennials have different values about work than their older counterparts. Plenty of ink has been spilled offering employers ideas on how to counteract Millennials' supposed desire to flee jobs quickly. But none of these articles seems to take into account the reasons why Millennials don't expect to stay in one job very long. Most articles written about Millennials' work habits rely more on stereotypes about us than on the economic facts that have shaped our generation.
Here's some Millennial Mythbusting:
Myth #1: Millennials change jobs often because they are entitled and got too many participation trophies as children.
If Millennials are too entitled, maybe its because we've earned it! Millennials are the most well-educated generation ever. Yes, previous generations had to "pay their dues" in low paying positions before they got promoted to the jobs they wanted. But people today are entering the work force with more education. Is it really fair to expect Millennials to get all the education they're getting and then still be satisfied starting out in low-wage positions that don't require degrees? 
Myth #2: Millennials are disloyal employees and just want to work at fun places where they get praised all the time
Surveys have shown that Millennials highly value work-life balance, which may make them more likely to leave jobs that are stressful and have little flexibility. They also don't plan to stay working for one company for a lifetime like their parents did. 
But, its not like their parents were well-rewarded for their loyalty. Each generation of Americans can depend less on pensions being there for them when they retire. And Millennials have watched their parents' pensions disappear. Loyalty is less rewarded by workplaces these days. I talked to one older worker (let's just call her, "my mom"), who, after 25 years with the same company was told that she, along with her entire department, would have to submit a resume and re-apply for her job. She was actually put through an interview process and made to wait three months to find out if she would keep the job she had been doing for 25 years! That's a far cry from the security companies used to offer employees in exchange for long-term service. 
Millennials are smart enough to know that there is less reward these days for sticking around at a company that won't be loyal to employees. That doesn't make us disloyal, it makes us smart! Wages have not kept up with inflation. Working people are making less money over time. And if we're going to be overworked and underpaid anyway, we might as well switch jobs until we find one that is fulfilling and treats us well. 
Myth #3: Millennials want to move "up the ladder" faster. They switch jobs often to get fast promotions, instead of staying in one job and working their way up.
First of all, if this is true, it's a really smart life hack! Old people are just jealous they didn't think of it first.
Secondly, Millennials are the most indebted generation ever. College costs have risen astronomically, and people are now graduating with an average of $30,000 of student loan debt. And those student loan companies chase you down relentlessly trying to get that money from you with interest rates juicing the amount you owe each day. It's no wonder Millennials graduate college unwilling to slowly work their way up the ladder at any one job. 
We literally cannot afford to be patient. 
Myth #4: Millennials are all lazy losers living at home with their parents.
It's true, Millennials (particularly older Millennials) are far more likely to live with their parents than any other age group.  We have delayed marriage and home buying more than any other generation. These statistics are the ones most commonly cited when people are Millennial bashing.
I am so tired of this argument, that I could go down the hall to my parents' room and take a nap!
Millenials were by far the group hit hardest by the Great Recession. We did everything right; we went to colleges with the highest tuition of all-time and took out massive student loans -- after being told that we would definitely be able to pay them back because we lived in the most economically stable country in the world... until we didn't. Those of us who graduated into the recession faced an incredibly difficult time finding work, and Millennials are now far more risk-averse than their parents. We are also willing to work incredibly hard because we experienced hardship very early on in our careers. 
People who graduate during a recession make less money over their lifetimes, just because of bad timing. And by the way, Millennials weren't the ones who crashed the economy. The Old People who are going around calling us lazy were the ones who did that. 
The economic recovery has been slow for everyone, but because we were new to the workforce when the recession hit, Millennials' economic recovery is coming slower than anyone else's. The workforce has become more mobile, technology-driven, and no longer rewards long tenures with the same company. Millennials' work habits all seem like common sense reactions to those changes. 
So if The Olds want to be mad at anyone for Millennials not staying at jobs for more than three years, they should be mad at themselves. And then they should probably get over it because in the next decade Millennials will make up 40% of the workforce. Working several jobs over a lifetime is likely to become the norm. In the meantime, maybe just lie to the HR rep and tell them that you are looking for a company to settle down with. You know, like on dates!