It’s Official: Millennials Are Now the Largest Part of the U.S. Workforce

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Aug 20, 2015

According to a recent Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau figures, Gen Y has officially edged out Gen X in 2015 to nab the largest share of the workforce, making up 35 percent of all U.S. workers with Gen X, Baby Boomers, and Traditionalists trailing at 34, 29, and 2 percent, respectively.

Currently 1 in 3 American workers are Millennial-aged, and as the Boomer Exodus continues, they will inexorably become the most dominant segment of workers.

Most recently Gen X held that honor, peaking at 84 percent of the labor force in 2008.

No longer outliers

Much ink has been spilt over Gen Y’s motivations, ambitions, character, and of course, how to engage them. By now a large body of research has been collected, and we are seeing with our own eyes how Millennials are working, adapting, and changing the business landscape.

They are no longer outliers; they are “large and in-charge,” and they are setting the bar for how companies relate to their employees.

Perhaps nobody has paid more attention than the White House Council of Economic Advisors, who prepared a deeply researched fact sheet examining the economic impact of the rise of the Millennials. It’s chock-full of qualitative data culled from years of research, and the insights provided are useful for organizations looking to understand and engage millennials better.

Some highlights:

  • They are the largest and most diverse segment of employees the U.S. has ever seen. It’s true – no other generation has ever had the strength in numbers like Millennials, who now make up one third of the entire U.S. population. Many Millennials are the children of immigrants who arrived during the last immigration surge in the 1940s. Today, 15 percent of all folks aged 20-34 were born in a foreign country, the highest that number has been since the last great wave of immigration to the U.S. in the 1910s.
  • They have been shaped by technology. Personal computers were first introduced to schools in the 1970s, and in the ensuing decades technology has advanced exponentially according to Moore’s Law, bringing us to a place where mobile technology and instant communication is engrained in our daily lives. Millennials grew up during the heart of the last tech revolution, and as a result are more likely to use social media more frequently and sleep next to their cell phone. By consequence their parents are more likely to be tech-savvy too, making Millennials the first generation able to have running conversations with their parents throughout the day and stay connected with the world perpetually. These interactions are the norm for them.
  • They value community, family, and creativity in their work. While some toll the bell about the dangers of too much social media, the research shows that being connected to social networks more frequently breeds a greater sense of community and need to contribute to society. Millennials have had near-unlimited access to information, and they are more likely to be closer to their communities because of it. They also have closer relationships with their parents, thanks the number of hours parents devote to childcare tripling since 1985. Their tight relationships extend to work, where some companies report establishing relationships with the parents of their millennial employees.

A bright future

As Millennials gain even more years on previous generations and grow into leadership roles, these will be the values that guide them.

They are not mere trends; they are the defining characteristics of the first generation of the Information Age. The workplace in 2015 is more diverse, more social, and more familial, with a bigger sense of community, humility, and reaching for the greater good – if you ask us, the future looks bright.

We highly recommend checking out the full White House CEA report on millennials for more insight.