Millennials Are Now the Biggest Generation in the American Workforce, But Their Influence As Consumers Is Equally Important

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Recent data from the Pew Research Center and a U.S. Census Bureau survey shows that Millennials are starting to become even more influential, now that they have become the largest generation in the American workforce.

The Wall Street Journal and TIME magazine both report that there are 53.5 million Millennials in the workforce, making up about one-third of the working American population. A Pew analysis estimates that Millennials surpassed Gen Xers in the first quarter of the year; this generation is now slightly less than 33% of the workforce, with an estimated 52.7 million people in the workforce who are over the age of 35 but are not yet old enough to consider retirement.

According to Pew, there are 44.6 million Baby Boomers in the workforce (although this number is quickly dwindling as more people from this generation begin retiring) and there are just 3.7 million workers from the Silent Generation.

As the WSJ notes, businesses have struggled to adapt to Millennial attitudes, just as much as researchers have struggled to determine exactly where to draw the line between Millennials and Gen Xers, and between Millennials and Generation Z (the population currently under 18).

Interestingly enough, the Millennial generation is shaping how businesses operate, both in their roles as workers and in their roles as consumers.

As TIME states, the priorities of Millennials are much different from those of Gen Xers. Millennials prefer flexibility in the workplace and they’re a significant presence in the 80% of workers who view telecommuting as a job perk. They’re more willing to pass up a promotion and they aren’t afraid to budget their finances, but they’re also willing to put in longer hours and work for a long-term goal.

On the other hand, a recent Forbes article noted that Millennials are creating an interesting consumer trend, especially considering that they grew up during the Recession.

Economists predicted that Millennials would respond to consumerism similar to how Americans responded after the Great Depression; i.e., not spending any money and thereby not allowing the economy to grow. But according to a recent report released by Goldman Sachs, Millennials seem to have made a quick comeback from those tough financial years.

As more Millennials enter the workforce and begin having families of their own, they may not be driving up certain markets (like the housing market), but they’re becoming the biggest consumers for other markets (like home goods and technology).

Sure, some of the changes may be unwelcome to older workers in the average American office — but it’s clear that the businesses evolving along with Millennials will profit the most in the long run.

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