Are Millennials Underemployed?
February 11, 2016
Are millennials underemployed?

Are millennials underemployed?

Despite the long hangover after the Great Recession, millennials are not, by and large, mired in low-skill, low-wage service jobs, according to a new study from the New York Federal Reserve. As the Fed’s Liberty Street Economics blog puts it: “Working as a barista after college is not as common as you might think.” The study by Jaison Abel and Richard Dietz looked at employment patterns of Millennial college graduates and non-college graduates:

Contrary to popular belief, most underemployed recent college graduates were not working in low-skilled service jobs following the Great Recession. Indeed, nearly half were working in relatively high-paying jobs, with more than 10 percent working in the information processing and business support, managers and supervisors, and sales categories. At 25 percent, the largest share of underemployed recent college graduates worked in the office and administrative support category. While these jobs may not be as desirable as the typical college job, which pays around $78,500 annually, they are significantly better than low-skilled service jobs. That said, about one-fifth of underemployed recent college graduates—roughly 9 percent of all recent graduates—did work in a low-skilled service job.

In sum, the authors found that media concerns about educated Millennials being relegated to low-wage service jobs seem to be overblown. At least, they are now.

However, longer term data suggest that there are secular, non-cyclical trends at work that are undercutting the ability of young, recent college graduates to find jobs that were much more easily available to their college-educated forbears in previous generations.

For example, a 2013 study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had discovered a gradual but steady collapse between 1960 and 2009 in the fraction of jobs that required routine cognitive work – the kind of work that has long formed the backbone of jobs requiring college graduates. And that was before the Great Recession.

The percentage of jobs requiring routine cognitive work has been falling for over half a century.

The percentage of jobs requiring routine cognitive work has been falling for over half a century.