The Days of Working in a Stable Career Are Long Gone

The average “millennial” holds 7.2 jobs by the time he or she turns 29 years old, according to a new Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report released last Friday.

The report adds even more evidence that we increasingly live in an “on-demand economy” where workers are interchangeable and replaceable. Certainly, there are both winners and losers in this new contracted, freelanced, ‘shared,’ automated, Uber-ized, ‘1099-ed’ economy.

Job change can be healthy for an economy if workers are exiting positions that they are overqualified for in favor of better job matches where their careers are put to productive use. The new BLS study shows that more educational attainment is correlated with more job changes. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York finds that college graduates with better job matches earn higher wages. College-educated “millennials” certainly benefit from climbing the occupational ladder upwards.

However, the data suggest that young white (non-Latino) workers have more access to job opportunities than their African-American and Latino counterparts. By age 29, young white workers have held an average of 7.5 jobs while young African-American workers have held just 6.8 jobs and young Latino workers have held just 6.5 jobs. In addition, white workers were employed an average of 76 percent of all weeks from ages 18 through 28, while young African-American workers were employed just 63 percent of the time. Hispanic or Latino workers were employed 73 percent of weeks from ages 18 through 28.

The seeds of continued racial income inequality in the future have been sewn: White workers have been employed longer (equating to more job experience) and have had more opportunities to find the right career for them than non-white workers. We live in an age of vast income inequality – including a growing racial gap.

And we live in an age in which the largest generation in America, the “millennial” generation, is the most Unattached Generation of modern times.

“Millennials” are more religiously unaffiliated than any previous generation, more politically detached (although they lean Democratic by double-digit figures), getting married less frequently, and are far less likely to be unionized. The old religious, political, familial, and organizational institutions are weaker in the younger generation of Americans.

So is the employment relationship. Young workers are no longer “attached” to their jobs.

The days of working in a stable career with one employer are long gone.


Frank Manzo IV is the Policy Director of the Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI). Visit ILEPI at www.illinoisepi.org, like ILEPI on Facebook, and follow ILEPI on Twitter @illinoisEPI. This post is part of the “Frankonomics” series.

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