Geriatric millennials are winning at work [Full Article]

Geriatric millennials are winning at work
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Geriatric millennials are winning at work

By Hillary Hoffower and Madison Hoff

  • The oldest millennials are the best-off age group in terms of employment right now.
  • They're the only cohort among six age groups at or above pre-pandemic employment, per BLS data.
  • They also have a skill set in bridging the generational divide that's in high demand.

Millennials have had their fair share of economic challenges, but for the oldest members of the generation, unemployment isn't currently one of them.

They're the only cohort with a higher number of employed people than before the coronavirus recession, according to Insider's analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Only 199,000 nonfarm payrolls were added in December, which followed November's low gains of a revised 249,000. But despite these discouraging gains from the establishment survey, employment from the household survey rose by 651,000 in December.

And monthly employment changes by age group varied, with older millennials looking at an especially healthy work situation.

Americans aged 35 to 44 — which includes the oldest millennials and the youngest Gen Xers — are the only cohort among six age groups tracked by the BLS to be at or above its pre-pandemic employment level from February 2020, as of December 2021, as seen in the chart below. December was the first month that the age group surpassed pre-pandemic employment. The unemployment rate for those 35- to 44-years-old was 3.3% in December, below the national unemployment rate of 3.9%.

Gen Z was a different story. Americans between ages 16 and 19 were just above pre-pandemic employment back in April, but that didn't last long. By June, this teenage group had dipped below its employment level from February 2020 and hasn't gotten back since.

Although they've seen employment gains in recent months, younger workers in the 20- to 24-year-old age group still have some way to go before getting back to pre-pandemic levels. They've had the largest percent decrease from February 2020 employment among the six groups as of December.

As for the rest of millennials, the majority of the 25 to 34 age group, their employment recovery sits in the middle of the pack among the cohorts.

Older millennials have the upper hand at work

These findings seem to show the eldest millennials have come a long way since graduating into the Great Recession's blighted job market. It was a rocky start in which many juggled "lower-quality" jobs until they could find ones that landed them on their feet.

But two recessions later, they have the upper hand in the workplace. Not only are they the most employed age cohort, but they also bring the most skills to the table.

Informally known as "geriatric millennials," a term popularized by the author and leadership expert Erica Dhawan to refer to those born in the first five years of the generation, or between 1981 and 1985, this group straddles a digital divide between older and younger generations in the workplace.

Dhawan previously explained to Insider that this enables them to serve a hybrid role in the workplace by bridging communication styles — teaching traditional communication skills to younger employees and digital body language to older team members.

This means their skill set is in high demand, giving them greater freedom to quit and seek out better and higher-paying jobs. An analysis last year by Harvard Business Review found that midcareer employees are driving the Great Resignation. Resignation rates are highest among 30- to 45-year-old employees, increasing on average by more than 20% over the past year.

The reasons for the resignations are plenty, according to HBR, including more demand for midlevel workers and a catch-up in postponed job switching now that the dust has settled from the pandemic's economic effects. Given both their high employment rates and high quitting rates, older millennials are likely doing exactly that: leaving one job for a better one.

It's no wonder, then, that the geriatric millennial is now winning at work.

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