Against Many Tides: The Impact of the Great Recession, Gig Work & COVID-19 on the Millennial Workforce



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Millennials are presently both the largest component of the national workforce and have the highest unemployment rate. Given their unprecedented diversity, technological savvy, and educational profile, they are intensively studied as a bellwether to ascertain - among a host of other factors - the changing nature of employment in American labor markets. Moreover, this cohort is notable for being bracketed by two major disruptive economic events - the Great Recession and the COVID-19 pandemic - within an abbreviated timeframe prior to its oldest members not even having reached a mid-point in their work lives. This research survey utilizes a careful statistical description to examine the changing nature of employment for this cohort and their resulting financial position thus far in comparison with the economic standing of previous generations. This research does not engage in causal inference from the data reviewed. My findings appear to indicate that Millennials have fallen behind the Baby Boomer and Gen X generations in key metrics of wealth creation, economic health, and financial independence. Possibly, the rising incidence of impermanent contract-type work without traditional benefits have, in tandem with two recessions, left Millennials facing significant economic headwinds that may break the tradition of each successive generation of Americans surpassing the prosperity of their predecessors. However, it is premature to render that judgment given their years remaining in the workforce.