Demographics were the talk of Tuesday’s election–White voters, male voters, single women voters, Hispanics, African Americans and of course, young voters–the 18-29 year olds (millennials) who represent America’s future and a key swing demographic in many of the battleground election states, according Paul T. Conway, president of Generation Opportunity.
But Conway says the stalled U.S. economy is playing havoc in the lives of too many millennials. In fact, in September, millennials faced an unemployment rate of 11.8 percent, and if the labor force participation rates were factored into the calculation the unemployment rate for this group would jump to 16.6 percent.
The rate for African Americans and Hispanics is higher, as always. Blacks experienced 21 percent unemployment and Hispanics were at 12.1 percent.
What is notable about this population, said Conway, is that they typically have the highest level of disposable income, because those who are working are unencumbered by expenses like mortgages. They are very politically influential and in four elections cycles (2020) will comprise 38 percent of the American electorate.
They have volunteered to fight in two American wars; represent a huge percentage of the people who helped rebuild the Gulf Coast after Katrina and have responded in large numbers to the Hurricane Sandy crisis.
But Conway points out that in order for America to truly compete with nations like India and China, the United States cannot accept that a large swath of the talent and creativity of the nation are sitting on the sidelines unemployed.
What is needed, said Conway, a former chief of staff for the U.S. Department of Labor, is for businesses (particularly small firms) to create the entry-level jobs positions that millennials typically step into as they leave high school, college and postgraduate school.
But the uncertainty of what’s going to happen with tax cuts in January and the unstable regulatory environment have made businesses concerned about their margins and thus hesitate to create the entry-level jobs, Conway said.
At the same time, he said older workers have been so hard hit by the economic downtown since 2008, that many are taking pay cuts to stay in a job, which again squeezes the creation of more entry-level jobs.
Couple this with the reality that many schools, universities and community colleges are not working with their local business communities to turn out students with the training to work in the jobs they are creating and, Conway says, you have a recipe for high unemployment within the millennial population.
And that ultimately results in a United States that is not maximizing all its talents and skills.