Millennials now represent the largest generation in the American workforce, passing Generation X, and there’s no slowing in sight, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.
Adults between the ages of 18-34 represent one in three workers, Pew reported.
The milestone was reached in the first quarter of 2015 with 53.3 million Millennial workers in the U.S. workforce. For decades the Baby Boomers held the reins on labor force domination, only to be passed by Gen Xers in 2012.
“Our new analysis of labor force estimates is based on the monthly Current Population Survey, which serves as the basis for the official unemployment rate and labor force counts announced by the federal government each month,” Pew reported. “With its disproportionately large share of immigrants, and at an age of transition from college to the working world, the Millennial generation’s workforce is highly likely to grow even further in the near future.”
The boom in Millennial workforce population is due in part to a disproportionate amount of working-age immigrants coming to the U.S.
Relatively speaking, few immigrants come to the U.S. during childhood or during older adulthood. In the past five years, over half of newly arrived immigrant workers have been Millennials, Pew reported.
Because a significant portion of Millennials are still in college, Pew said the labor force numbers are suppressed and the Millennial workforce will continue to grow as they begin looking for jobs.
Just how many more will enter the labor force is tough to calculate, Pew reported, but looking at Generation X offers some clues.
“Generation X’s labor force participation rate peaked in 2008 at 84 percent. In 1998, Gen Xers were roughly the same ages (18 to 33) as today’s Millennials, and that year, only 80 percent of the Gen X population was in the labor force. So we can assume that the Millennial labor force still has some room for growth in the years to come,” Pew reported.
Generation X had a short-lived stint as the labor force leader, taking the title from the Baby Boomers in 2012, only to lose it to the Millennials in 2015.
One caveat, Pew reports, is that it’s possible that the Gen X labor force might grow. Immigration will add some workers to the Gen X labor force. Also, labor force participation has been diminished due to the Great Recession and modest economic recovery. If the job market continues to improve in the post-recession era, some Gen Xers will likely return to the labor market in stronger numbers.
The Baby Boomers’ workforce domination peaked in 1997 with 66 million workers. The youngest Boomer is now 51 years old, while the oldest Boomers are approaching age 70.
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Published May 12, 2015
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