Millennials make up roughly 43 percent of Delawareans over age 20 who are unemployed.
For many of the oldest millennials – those born between 1980 and 1994 – the dive into the job market is more of a belly flop.
“Everybody went to college with the idea you’re going to make a boatload of money, but the market is just flooded right now. Seventy-five percent of my friends aren’t working in the field they went to college for,” said Andrew Howard, 26, of Newark.
America’s millennials, 75.3 million strong, are unemployed, underemployed and facing challenges the baby boomers never did.
The new largest generation deals with quadrupled student debt, computerized job applications that seem to go nowhere, retirement-age workers reluctant to leave their jobs, and employers who schedule workers for fewer than 30 hours to avoid the new government health-care mandate.
“Everybody’s plan is they’re going to school and they’re going to magically get this job making $60,000 right out of college. The job market is so flooded that the best you’re going to do is a job calling people to get them to pay their credit cards off, ” said Howard, who sold tile, worked as a barkeep and server and now works part-time jobs as a woodworker and a sign maker.
The national unemployment rate was 5.3 percent in June, but the rate for 20- to 24-year-olds was 9.8 percent.
Some advocates, like Generation Opportunity, a nonpartisan youth advocacy group, said many young people have given up looking for work due to the lack of jobs, so that 1.7 million young adults are no longer counted in the national unemployment figures.
George A. Sharpley, the Ph.D. economist who heads the Delaware Office of Occupational & Labor Market Information, said he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics at 21 but worked as a Boy Scout executive, a picture framer, a landscaper, a bill collector, a soldier and other jobs before he went back to school and got a job as an economist. “I don’t think my story is that unusual,” Sharpley said.
“Young people tend to spend more time moving from job to job, so, at any given time, there will be more who are between jobs,” he said. “To the extent that it helps them find their best fit in the workforce, that is a good thing. They also tend to have fewer things holding them down –mortgage, children – so they can better afford periods of unemployment in the process of finding the right job.”
The most common occupation for men ages 18 to 29 is cook, with 780,000 jobs nationally. The most common occupation for women in that age group is cashier, with 1.1 million jobs, according to Georgetown University figures.
Many millennials, not content with starter jobs in restaurants and service occupations, told a recent Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll last quarter that they hope to find career-path jobs, pay off their student loans, get married, have children and buy homes. About 68 percent said getting started is considerably harder today than in was for previous generations, however.
In fact, the age at which young workers reach the median wage has increased from 26 to 30, according to a 2013 report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. “The on-ramp from education to full-time careers and family formation is delayed for many young adults,” the report said.
The largest cohort of millennials turns 24 this year. Shalonda Lampkins of Wilmington is one of them. Lampkins did a stint at Dawn Technical Institute before enrolling at Delaware Technical & Community College. She’s studying phlebotomy, hoping it will lead to a full-time job in the medical field, but her long-range goal is to study physical therapy.
The millennials are the most educated generation and the most diverse, partly due to Asian and Hispanic immigration. About 43 percent of them are nonwhite, compared with 28 percent of boomers and 39 percent of Generation X, according to Pew Research Center.
In a Deloitte survey this year, 59 percent of millennial men and 47 percent of millennial women said they aspire to become the leader within their current organization, but only 28 percent of millennials feel their current organizations are making full use of the skills they have to offer.
Fewer than half told the Heartland Monitor poll they would feel successful if they had a full-time job or a skilled job with benefits. Most set higher standards – a supervisory position or a job that will lead to a career ladder. Their top choice of career is “owning your own business.”
Corey Ashley of Wilmington, who works two part-time jobs, would be one of them.
At 21, he’s thinking about going to college. His role model is his sister, who is studying for a master’s and climbing a corporate ladder. He said he might want to start his own business.
“I’m not sure what I want to do yet, but I know I want to be the boss,” Ashley said.
In Delaware, however, millennials make up 38.5 percent of the total unemployed and 42.9 percent of unemployed who are 20 or older.
As Andrew Howard said, “You can fill out 15 applications online and never hear anything back.”
How many millennials are underemployed is not tracked because there is no generally accepted definition of underemployment.
“Seventy-five percent of my friends aren’t working in the field they went to college for, or they are working in restaurants while they’re trying to get hired in their field,” Howard said. “Nobody expected it to be this way. We were all born in the Reagan-Clinton years, when the economy was good.”
By the numbers:
79 percent would consider quitting their jobs and working for themselves
58 percent expect to switch jobs in fewer than three years
52 percent say corporate loyalty is outmoded
46 percent see themselves as middle or senior managers in 10 years
7 percent see themselves in the C-suite in 10 years
15 percent expect to own a business in 10 years