September Jobs: Millennials Got a Raise Last Year (but still make less than they did before the recession)

By Tom Allison

Earlier this month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the monthly jobs report for September. The unemployment rate for young adults aged 18-to-34 stayed flat at 6.7 percent (seasonably adjusted).  The rate remains above the national average of 5.0 percent.

Below are the race and ethnicity breakouts for young adults (not seasonably adjusted):

  • African American: 11.1 percent
  • Latino: 7.4 percent
  • Asian or Pacific Islander: 5.0 percent

We’ve covered the slow but steady recovery for young adults in the job market in previous posts. Don’t forget that in June 2013, young adult unemployment was at 10.4 percent, with 2.9 million fewer young adults working today. Looking even further back to the depths of the recession in September 2009, young adult unemployment was at 13.0 percent. 

But for these young adults who are working now, how much are they earning from those new jobs? New Census data released last month showed real (adjusted for inflation)  median income rising for the first time since 2007. We crunched the numbers for young adults and saw similar trends. Real median earnings for workers aged 18-to-24 rose $1,000 to $14,000, while 25-to-34 year-olds’ earnings rose $2,000 to $35,000.

So young adults got a raise last year. That’s good. Only problem is, after adjusting for inflation, young adults are still earning less than they did before the recession in 2007. And these declines are steeper for them than for older workers. As the table shows below, our youngest workers make 6 percent less than they did in 2007. This compares to only a 1 percent decline for workers 35 and older. Fortunately 25-to-34 year olds median income rose 2 percent during this time.

Median Earnings Since Recession (2007 to 2015)
Age 2007 2015 % Change
18-24 $ 14,820 $ 14,000 -6%
25-34 $ 34,200 $ 35,000 2%
35+ $ 43,320 $ 43,000 -1%
Young Invincibles Current Population Survey, adjusted to 2015 dollars

Young Invincibles will release new research exploring the implications of these income declines, with a close look at education attainment, student debt, and demographic equity. Beyond income, we’ll also look at wider indicators of financial security, like home ownership, saving for retirement, and asset accumulation. Stay tuned.

sept

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