Millennials are Dropping out of the Workforce, Here’s Why

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Surprisingly, millennial males have been leaving workforce faster than any other age and gender demographic in the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics show that half a million more men aged 25 to 34 would be working now if their participation had returned to pre-crisis levels or better. Reasons include increased rates of school and training, as well as disability and illness. Other factors include fewer high-paying manufacturing and mining jobs, more young adults living at home, better video games and increased opioid use.

The Past Explains

Men, America’s economically privileged gender, haven’t been able to work due to high incarceration and increased disability rates. Many men graduated high school into a world that didn’t have much for middle-skill job opportunities. After that, the U.S. saw the worst downturn since the Great Depression. During the 2007-2009 recession, employment plummeted across the board. This means that 25- to 34-year-old men fell far behind their slightly-older counterparts.

Though employment rates have been slowly climbing back, young men never caught up again. Millennial males remain less likely to hold down a job than the generation before them, even as women their age work at higher rates.

Exploring More Reasons

It’s difficult for economists to determine if this demographic just wants to remain on the sidelines or if there is a deeper meaning for this decline. Some say they could be choosing to stay home or enroll in school. They’re doing this because well paying, non-degree jobs in industries like manufacturing aren’t as easy to come by.

Other social changes could be worsening the trend. Better video games might make leisure time more attractive, some economists hypothesize. Opioid use might also be making several young people less employable. Young adults increasingly live with their parents, and cohabitation might be providing a “different form of insurance,” said Erik Hurst, an economist at the University of Chicago.