Why you should care
While older generations have faith that Trump will be good for job growth, my generation is less optimistic.
The author is research director at Future Workplace; his books include Promote Yourself and Me 2.0.
During Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, one of his biggest focus areas was on creating jobs in America and bringing back manufacturing jobs from overseas. He brought up those themes during nearly every speech, and partly because of his perceived business track record, his supporters judged him capable of delivering.
Ten weeks into the presidency, older generations still have faith that Trump will be good for job growth. But my generation is less optimistic.
In a new study of more than 1,000 employers and job seekers, we found that 38 percent of millennials said job growth would decrease under Trump, compared to 26 percent of Gen Xers and 28 percent of baby boomers. We believe that the reason millennials are more pessimistic about job creation is that they are suffering the most. Compared to older generations, they are more in debt, underemployed and unemployed. A whole 20 percent of them are living in poverty, despite soaring-high corporate profits and older generations that are holding onto most of the nation’s wealth. With the rising cost of tuition, cost of living, interest rates and rent and home prices, millennials are really feeling the pressure and pain. As a result of being unemployed, my generation has had a delayed adulthood, and it has affected every aspect of our lives. And there’s no indication that we will be employed anytime soon.
Millennials are still the most optimistic generation — practically every cohort in his or her teens and twenties is optimistic. They feel they have their whole lives ahead of them, and believe they can recover from setbacks. But their situation is dire.
More than 30 percent of them live with at least one parent, and with their parents supporting them, it’s been challenging for them to mature and become financially independent. In addition, they are getting married later, postponing children and don’t have the funds to purchase a car or a house. Their view of the American dream has been tarnished due to their employment situation, and it’s caused a lot of frustration, anxiety and depression. They don’t blame one another for their lack of a job — they blame Trump, whose promises to bring back jobs ring empty to millennial ears.
Take, for instance, his promise to bring back coal mining jobs. Last week, Trump lifted a moratorium on federal coal leases, removing the temporary ban on mining coal that was established by the Obama administration. Leaving aside whether the rollback will actually bring back mining jobs (power plant owners are turning to natural gas), millennials don’t want to work in coal mines in the first place. About a fourth of millennials have a bachelor’s degree, and want to leverage it into a professional job. Which is to say: Trump’s challenge isn’t just to create jobs in America, but to create ones for knowledgeable workers who are highly educated.
Here’s how he should start: Make college much more affordable and help remove the trillion-dollar-plus student loan burden that has caused millennials a lot of harm. By lowering the cost of education, at least in the public school system, millennials could focus on saving money instead of paying off debt. Then, he can start promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers and help close the current skills gap in America. More than 5 million jobs in America are unfilled, and if Trump can help companies fill the gap, then everyone can win.
Trump has his work cut out for him over the next four years, and millennials will be paying close attention to how he handles job growth. As we become an even more influential and powerful voting body, Trump will need to take us seriously.