Report: In Jobs Recovery, Boomers Make Up Growing Share of Workforce while Millennial Employment Lags

Jun 06, 2014 No Comments by

CHICAGO, June 6, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — The jobs recovery has put spotlights on two large sections of the labor force: workers nearing the end of their careers and young adults just beginning them. While the economy has been difficult for both groups, baby boomers now hold a larger percentage of jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and other occupations than before the recession, while millennials have generally struggled to make headway four years into the recovery.

The number of jobs held by baby boomers (age 55-64) grew 9 percent from 2007 to 2013, a gain of 1.9 million. The millennial workforce (age 22-34), however, has not recovered from the recession nearly as fast. With an increase of only 110,000 jobs, employment in 2013 was essentially unchanged from 2007 (.3 percent growth).

This analysis—from CareerBuilder and Economic Modeling Specialists Intl. (EMSI)—explores the very different stories of millennials and baby boomers post-recession. EMSI’s extensive labor market database pulls from over 90 national and state employment resources and includes detailed information on employees and self-employed workers.

An interactive, web-embeddable map and table of 175 U.S. metros supplements this report and can be found at the EMSI blog.

“The recession prompted boomers and millennials to approach the labor market differently. Confronted by weaker entry-level job prospects, young professionals left the workforce in greater numbers or took lower paying jobs that didn’t take immediate advantage of their degrees,” said Matt Ferguson, CareerBuilder CEO and co-author of The Talent Equation. “Older workers, on the other hand, often had to postpone retirement to recoup lost savings. Never in history have workers over the age of 55 had the concentration in the workforce they have today; however, employers will have to plan for vacancies when this group inevitably retires, which could quickly create new skills gaps in trade vocations and STEM fields.”

Ferguson also expressed the need for more affordable college education options and reskilling opportunities for workers struggling to find employment, regardless of career stage.

“In a depressed labor market, we ideally want more people to acquire college degrees, but the rates of graduates did not spike during the recession,” Ferguson said. “This suggests rising costs prohibited many people in need of new skills from obtaining them, a trend that needs to be reversed going forward.”

The Boomer and Millennial Workforce: Before and After the Recession
Both demographic and behavioral factors provide explanations for boomers’ and millennials’ diverging paths. The aging population may be the most significant. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the population of 55 and older Americans has grown 20 percent since 2007—four times as fast as prime-working age millennials (ages 25-34).

Moreover, the 55 and older group is the only age group to increase its labor force participation rate (+1.7 percentage points) and employment-to-population ratio (+.8 percentage points) since 2007. By comparison, Americans ages 25-34 saw a 2.1 and 4.3 percentage point drop in their labor force participation and employment-to-population ratio, respectively.*

Growth by Occupation – 2007-2013
The following table shows percentage job change in selected occupational groups from 2007 to 2013. Outside of food preparation and serving jobs, boomers have increased their share of jobs held in each category, including STEM occupations, relative to millennials. Construction and architecture and engineering occupations were particularly difficult fields to enter for young workers, with 19 and 10 percent drops in employment, respectively.

Occupation Group Baby Boomers (Age 55-64) Millennials (Age 22-34)
% Job Change 2013 Share (Change) % Job Change 2013 Share (Change)
Food Preparation & Serving 20% 7% (+1) 18% 35% (+3)
Healthcare Practitioners & Technical 22% 17% (+2) 11% 27% (+1)
Computer & Mathematical 20% 11% (+1) 2% 32% (-1)
Business & Financial Operations 11% 17% (+2) -1% 27% (-1)
Architecture & Engineering 9% 18% (+2) -10% 27% (-1)
Legal 4% 18% (+2) -5% 26% (0)
Construction & Extraction -3% 12% (+2) -19% 29% (-2)

Metros with Highest Share of Jobs Held by Millennials & Boomers
Of metro areas with one million or more residents, Pittsburgh, PA, Hartford, CT, and Cleveland, OH, have the largest share of workers age 55-64. Aging workforces in these regions’ strong manufacturing industries underlie the high concentration. At the other end of the spectrum, Salt Lake City leads all markets for jobs held by workers age 22-34. Millennials dominate the area’s emerging computer, health care and finance occupations.

Rank Boomers Millennials
Metro % Share Metro % Share
1 Pittsburgh, PA 17.7% Salt Lake City, UT 34.1%
2 Hartford, CT 17.2% Austin, TX 31.4%
3 Cleveland, OH 17.2% San Diego, CA 29.7%
4 Philadelphia, PA 16.3% San Antonio, TX 29.5%
5 Providence, RI 16.2% Phoenix, AZ 29.2%
6 Portland, OR 16.1% Seattle-Tacoma, WA 29.2%
7 Tampa, FL 16.0% Oklahoma City, OK 29.0%
8 Rochester, NY 16.0% New Orleans, LA 28.9%
9 Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY 16.0% Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN 28.8%
10 Milwaukee, WI 16.0% Washington, DC 28.6%

Metros with Fastest Job Growth for Boomers & Millennials
Mirroring job growth for all age groups, Houston and Austin, TX, make up the top two metros for percentage growth among boomers and millennials.

Rank Boomers Millennials
Metro Growth Metro Growth
1 Houston, TX 23% Austin, TX 11%
2 Austin, TX 22% Houston, TX 9%
3 Salt Lake City, UT 18% New Orleans, LA 9%
4 Dallas, TX 18% Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY 9%
5 Denver, CO 16% San Antonio, TX 8%
6 San Antonio, TX 16% Dallas, TX 7%
7 San Jose, CA 15% Pittsburgh, PA 6%
8 Indianapolis, IN 15% Rochester, NY 6%
9 Pittsburgh, PA 14% Oklahoma City, OK 6%
10 Nashville, TN 14% Denver, CO 5%
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