Business: Employment 'challenging' for Millennials in the job market

The Virginia Gazette

8:26 PM EDT, August 5, 2014


WILLIAMSBURG — A few weeks ago, I wrote about a man who wanted to teach Millennials the skills they need to get and keep a job.

They could use the help. While the national unemployment rate generally is falling, Millennials still facing higher unemployment rates.

Generation Opportunity, a national, non-partisan youth advocacy organization, just released its Millennial Jobs Report for July 2014. The figures for 18-29 years olds are not pretty.

The unemployment rate was at 6.2 percent in July, near the post-World War II average of 6.1 percent. Some say the effective unemployment rate, which also counts people who have given up on finding a job and fallen out of the workforce, could be twice that high.

The effective unemployment rate among 18-29 year olds is 15.1 percent. The nominal rate is 10.5 percent.

According to Generation Opportunity that means there are an additional 1.9 million young adults who are out of work but don't count as "unemployed" because they have left the labor force.

The rates for minority Millennials are even worse. The effective unemployment rate for 18-29 year old African Americans is 22.5 percent and even the nominal rate is 20.6 percent. Among Hispanic Millennials the effective rate is 16 percent and the nominal rate is 11 percent.Young women are doing better than young men in the job market. Among women, 18-29 years old the effective unemployment rate is 12.8 percent and the nominal rate is 9.9 percent, much closer to the overall average for all workers.

The numbers are somewhat better in Virginia, where the unemployment rate for those ages 18-29 has averaged 10.1 percent over the last 12 months, accord to Generation Opportunity.

Although Generation Opportunity didn't break the numbers down on a local level, this is an issue with obvious relevance to the Historic Triangle. Fully half the residents of Williamsburg are students at the College of William and Mary. In the past, the vast majority of them have left the area, due to a lack of jobs here.

"I think it depends on the student and what field they are going into," said Kathleen Powell, executive director of career development at the Cohen Career Center at W&M. "If they've done their due diligence, have collateral in their resume and have done good networking, there are opportunities out there."

She said some sectors of the economy are more "challenging" than others.

"My generation is scraping to get by," said Patrice Lee, director of outreach at Generation Opportunity, in a statement accompanying the report. "15.5 percent of us are unemployed and desperately seeking full-time jobs."

Even when Millennials can find a job, it may not be a job that comes with benefits. More and more employers are going with part-time and temporary workers.

That's true even for those with degrees in the supposedly coveted "STEM" (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields.

My son-in-law graduated with degrees in chemistry and math. He was able to find a job in his field fairly easily, but only by going through a temp agency. Because that's how nearly all the companies in those fields are doing their initial hires. So he's got a fairly well-paid job and the hopes of getting a full-time position with the company if he performs well. But he's being paid less than he's worth — the agency gets a cut of his pay — and he's on his own in terms of insurance and saving for retirement.

That's not good for him in the short term, and probably not good for the company long-term because a temporary, non-benefit employee is going to be continually hunting for their next job. While hoping the worker impresses them enough to be offered a full-time job, the employer is doing nothing to foster loyalty.

Business notes: