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The Changing Face of Young Workers

The Changing Face of Young Workers

In The Young Population and Workforce, the AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees reports that the face of young workers is rapidly changing and concludes that unions and young people can be strong allies in the struggle for workplace rights, immigration reform, student loan reform and other key issues that face the United States. The report notes that young people, defined as 18-35, while being a growing part of the workforce, face significant challenges in finding good jobs or, to be blunt, finding jobs at all.

Young workers have been forced out of shrinking industries like construction and manufacturing that traditionally paid well. Young workers with less education are moving to lower-paying retail and food service jobs, those with more education are finding employment in fast-growing professional and technical industries like health care and education. However, far too many young workers, shut out by the lagging economy, have left the workforce all together or toil in jobs they are overqualified for.

Key findings from the report:

  • Latinos and racial minorities make up nearly half of the young population.
  • Of the 55.5 million young workers in the United States, more than 10% were unemployed.
  • The majority of young workers who are unemployed have not achieved a high school diploma.
  • More than half of young union members have at least an associate's degree, double the rate from 1994.
  • The industries that young men are most likely to work in are also the most likely to see large declines in young worker employment.
  • Some 57% of young union members work in public administration and educational services.

The report includes significant optimism, noting that young people are more likely than older Americans to recognize the importance of labor unions in providing working families a voice.  This and the growing diversity of young workers are key components to building a future workforce that has more ability to exercise a collective voice in the workplace.

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