Demographic Trends in the American Workforce

HR_attentionThere have been countless articles written about the characteristics, perceptions, and motivations of Millennial workers. This scrutiny makes sense because employers are trying to understand what, if any, changes they need to make to capitalize on this large and quickly growing segment of the workforce.

We will leave it to others to praise or bash Millennials. We simply want to take a look at the hard numbers behind the demographic trends in the American workforce, and we would strongly encourage you to consider the labor pool you’re currently working with and whether your company is well-positioned to capitalize on the trends shown here.

Millennials = Born 1981-1997 / Boomers = Born 1946-1964 / Gen Xers = Born 1965-1980 (or remove asterisks from body of article and simply include attached graphic)

There is no denying that the trends are in favor of figuring out a Millennial acquisition strategy, if you haven’t already.

According to Pew Research Center’s analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, the number of Millennials in the workforce (53.5 million) surpassed the number of Boomers in 2014; and, upon overtaking Gen Xers in early 2015, Millennials now represent the largest generation in the U.S. labor force.

In fact, more than one in three American workers today is a Millennial.

Pew Center_Chart 1

According to Pew, this number is expected to grow further with immigration tailwinds (a Donald Trump presidency notwithstanding) and as younger Millennials transition from college to the working world. Providing context on the former, over half of newly-arrived immigrant workers in the past five years have been Millennials.

Fueling expectations of future growth is the fact that Generation X’s labor force participation rate peaked at 84% in 2008. In 1998, Gen Xers were roughly the same age (18 to 33) as Millennials are today, and that year only 80% of the Gen X population was in the labor force. If a similar trend holds true for Millennials, there is plenty of room for growth for this generation over the next decade plus.

While the growth is undeniably strong for this demographic and necessitates an eventual focus on Millennial acquisition, is this generation of workers ready for immediate staffing assignments? Depending on which skill sets you are looking to tap into, the answer might be a resounding yes!

PREMIUM CONTENT: To what degree do temporary workers recognize staffing firm brands?

Having grown up surrounded by technology and, in some cases, never knowing a world without the Internet, Millennials bring strong technical skills to the workplace. Unlike older generations, Millennials formed a solid foundation by taking computer programming courses from a young age. A quick glance at the startups populating Silicon Valley and other innovation hubs provides evidence of these skills being honed and applied in business settings.

So the numbers are there and their skills are job-ready, but do Millennials want to work with staffing firms?

This is where the industry has some room for improvement. A recent Staffing Stream article points out the importance of digital marketing in establishing employer brands. Nowhere is this branding more critical than in recruiting the future generation of workers.

The good news for staffing firms is that the right preconditions are in place. Many industry experts agree that Millennials are seeking greater flexibility and better work-life balance, and they exhibit less willingness than other generations to stay with one employer for an extended period of time.

Is this not the perfect recipe for the staffing model?

In order to capitalize, however, you need to have the right strategy in place to tap into this deep pool of talent and set your firm up for a bright future. University career centers might seem like a logical starting point for recruiting Millennials since they typically help young alumni as well as current students. The reality, however, is that most career centers receive multiple pitches per day and don’t have the resources to vet all (or, in some cases, any) of them. They’re forced to be strict gatekeepers, and this makes it difficult for outsiders to reach their students with opportunities.

Fortunately, there are companies you can work with that are operating independently of and/or in cooperation with universities that are connecting students to employers. Some, like HireOwl, the first student-focused freelancer management system (FMS), and even specialize in delivering freelance projects and other short-term work to their student community. HireOwl has already partnered with 41 leading universities to provide this service to their students, offering evidence of a healthy appetite for freelance work among Millennials.

The demographic trends support bringing Millennials on to your talent roster, as do their skills and their appetite for this type of work. Make 2016 the year you engage the future workforce and build a stronger staffing solution for years to come!

MORE: The influx of Boomers in the on-demand economy

Colin LeStrange

Colin LeStrange
Colin LeStrange founded HireOwl to address the nation’s skill gap by harnessing the power of the booming freelance economy and delivering it to the university campus.

Colin LeStrange

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