The U.S. labor market has been slow to recover from the depths of the recession. While certain sectors of the economy, like manufacturing, are driving economic growth, it has yet to translate into a sustained job recovery. Nonetheless, there were 192,000 jobs added in February and the unemployment dropped to 8.9 percent.
Infographic: Rapidly Changing Labor Force
How are young people adapting to a labor market that differs so greatly from the one their parents experienced? For many older workers, their first employer served as their only employer, but now, the average worker will change jobs anywhere from seven to 10 times during his career, according to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics.
Young workers are used to the idea of hopping from one job to another as a means of earning a promotion. Once the recession hit, however, workers were still changing jobs, but not to get ahead of the competition – they were doing it mostly out of necessity. In 2008, the most recent year data is available, workers stayed with their employers an average of 4.1 years; while that number could be even lower now, it's still a far cry from the 40 year average of older workers.
Why the quick turnaround with jobs? At this point, it's trite to say the recession has changed how young people behave, but it's also increasingly accurate; millions of Americans lost their jobs during the economic crisis and many workers were let go who had worked at companies for years. if there's one thing the recession taught young people, it's that companies will drop them in an instant if it makes financial sense.
Conversely, there have been great strides made in the American workforce over the past few decades. Women, for example, now comprise 47 percent of the working population, up from only 29.3 percent in 1950. While in the past, many women worked out of necessity, now women are choosing to work. Moreover, nowadays, working women are earning more and leading some of the biggest companies on earth, like Indra Nooyi, the chief executive of Pepsi Co.
The size of the U.S. workforce has also risen dramatically: In 1988, it was 121.7 million people, but in 2008, it was 166.9 million workers; the pace of growth, though, is slowing and while economists disagree on the exact cause – whether it be outsourcing, changing technology or other factors – finding a job can be a daunting experience.
For all the young people out there, it leaves a very intriguing question: Which workforce would you rather work in? While it's impossible to go back in time, do you prefer the stability and monotony of the older generation's work? Or does the ever changing nature of today's work force excite you? Here's a graphic from Credit Loan that summarizes the changes in the labor market over the past few generations of workers.