Millennials were dubbed ‘slackers’ early on by people who predicted the trends they would create.
But let’s be fair, Americans born between 1981 and 1996 have sustained more economic trauma than previous generations during age range.
The economic shift to the internet transformed the way Millennials connected and communicated with others as well as how this group worked. This monumental shift, alone, was a massive hurdle to overcome.
But that just kicks off this conversation of economic trauma suffered by these so-called ‘slackers.’
Just before the first millennials, also known as ‘80s babies,’ started cropping up in 1981, 401 (k) retirement plans started in Congress with the Revenue Act of 1978. This spurred a massive shift in companies no longer offering pension plans and long-term, stable employment to workers the way they did for Baby Boomers and older Gen Xers in the Industrial Age.
As older Millennials began to enter the workforce at the turn of the century, around year 2000, beyond realizing that the Y2k craze was just an unwarranted scare, September 11, 2001 would devastate more than just the psyche of Americans. As we all caught our first glimpse of Taliban global terrorists, we also witnessed trimmers through Wall Street markets and Main Street businesses.
Without skipping a beat, this event seemed to spur the Dotcom Bubble bursting – marked by a 76.81% fall in the Nasdaq index. Jobs dried up all over the country, seemingly overnight, including the early jobs of both my wife and myself.
Yup, I’m an older Millennial, and I’ve got the scars to prove it.
As the country worked hard to restore confidence and a sense of security amid our new-found knowledge of our wily, global enemies, 2007 brought more bad news.
The financial crash brought the housing market, juggernaut-giant companies, institutions, investors, and American jobs tumbling down like a global house of cards. When all the dust settled, we were left with what was coined ‘The Great Recession.’
This American and global recession took about ten million American jobs away that simply never returned. At it’s peak, unemployment hit around 10 percent by late 2009. Millennials, being the younger team members in the jobs they filled, were the first to go.
By the 2010s, we started seeing the first signs of how Millennials would cope with the absence of more stable jobs.
Enter, the rise of the ‘Gig Economy.’ Yes, gigs, such as those performed by musicians as early as 1915, have been around for a long time. But it was in 2009, in the wake of the flatlined economy, that American employers kicked up short-term, task-based jobs, or ‘gigs’ instead of offering more full-time, with benefits, j-o-b-s.
Just when millions of Millennials were getting a little wind in their sails….
Last year, shortly after a wonderful 2019 Christmas and New Year holiday season, 2020 greeted America with arguably her greatest test yet. The COVID-19 virus began human-to-human transmission around mid-January.
By mid-March, the NBA, Disney World, major airlines, and many other American household companies that define our culture, began to shut down for the very first time in many of their existence, taking 10 million jobs away, by the start of April 2020.
And remember, you know which works got their pink slips first, Millennials. Again, as the junior members on many teams in jobs around the country, they were laid-off first.
According to a businessinsider.com article written by Kate Duffy, nearly 69 million filings for unemployment benefits have been made from March to December 2, 2020!
And I can tell you that since then, there’s been close to one million new filings per week through January 2021.
As if that weren’t enough, let’s not forget, this doesn’t count gig workers who suffered, nor does it include the hundreds of thousands of small business owners who were just launching or gearing up to make their first profits in their new ventures.
I have a friend who worked with a partner for five years to build up three Orange Theory gyms locations in Los Angeles, CA. The month after he had taken his first real profit payout from five years of blood, sweat and tears, LA led the way in massive, state-wide shutdowns. That friend’s business dreams are so utterly destroyed, I believe the trauma from what’s occurred is the reason he’s not once brought up the whole debacle.
The details of his story were shared between my wife and his.
All of us have suffered and we all have stories to tell, but I think Millennials who have been swimming upstream economically before this, have suffered the most, at least financially.
In light of all we’ve fought through, I think it’s high time we rethink a more appropriate moniker for the Millennial generation. With our resilience, our ability to bounce back and be more agile than Spider-Man, I think we’re better identified as ‘Survivors’ than slackers.
As millions of the approx. 70 million Millennial workers get back to work, you can bet your bottom dollar we will thrive.