It's a daunting time to be entering the workplace. Today's young adults -- like their great-grandparents eight decades earlier -- are graduating from high school and college and starting careers at a time when the American economy is shedding jobs at a record pace.
This newest adult generation, dubbed the Millennials, is known for its optimism and sense of personal confidence. But will those traits survive the new economic realities? Recent survey results suggest the answer is a resounding yes. Millennials are demonstrating remarkable resilience in the face of an economic crisis, even though the downturn has affected them disproportionately.
Through the first quarter of 2009, employment for 16- to 24-year-olds dropped by 5%, the largest decline for any age cohort surveyed by Merrill Lynch. This produced the lowest employment rates for young people in nearly 40 years. And the situation isn't likely to get better soon. A survey by the National Assn. of Colleges and Employers found that employers plan to hire 22% fewer graduates this spring than last, and that, so far, less than 20% of 2009 graduates who applied for a job have one.
But Millennials have adopted a number of coping strategies to help them weather the economic maelstrom. An AP-mtvU poll found that nearly one in five undergraduates have decided to prolong their education, hoping the storm will pass. Others have enthusiastically turned to the government and nonprofit sectors to fulfill their generation's desire to serve. Teach for America, which places new graduates in low-income schools, saw a 42% increase in applications over 2008. And the recent enactment of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act will allow many more Millennials to serve at home or abroad while also providing Pell Grant-level support for their future education.