Millennial men - those aged between 25 and 34, are seriously lagging when it comes to participating in the hottest jobs market in decades - with unemployment the lowest its been since 1969, according to Bloomberg.
Ten years after the Great Recession, 25- to 34-year-old men are lagging in the workforce more than any other age and gender demographic. About 500,000 more would be punching the clock today had their employment rate returned to pre-downturn levels. Many, like Butcher, say they’re in training. Others report disability. All are missing out on a hot labor market and crucial years on the job, ones traditionally filled with the promotions and raises that build the foundation for a career.
Men -- long America’s economically privileged gender -- have been dogged in recent decades by high incarceration and swollen disability rates. They hemorrhaged high-paying jobs after technology and globalization hit manufacturing and mining. -Bloomberg
Perhaps they're just waiting for all those jobs they were promised to make the first move?
"At some point, you can have a bit of an effect of a lost generation," says University of Zurich economist, David Dorn. "If you get to the point where you’re turning 30, you’ve never held a real job and you don’t have a college education, then it is very hard to recover at that point."
As former Trump strategist Steve Bannon said in September (and more recently in a debate with David Frum):
"Millennials, please understand one thing. You’re better fed, better educated, in better shape, you’re more culturally aware than 19th-century Russian serfs, but you are nothing but serfs."
"You don’t own anything and you’re not going to own anything," he continued. "You are just going to be on the continual wheel of the gig economy, two paychecks away from financial ruin."
Many millennials left high school a decade ago to a world of outsourced manufacturing and middle-skill job opportunities - and then the great recession hit. When unemployment spiked during the 2007 - 2009 downturn, 25-34-year-old men fell behind their older counterparts.
Though employment rates have been climbing back from the abyss, young men never caught up again. Millennial males remain less likely to hold down a job than the generation before them, even as women their age work at higher rates. -Bloomberg
And as David Dorn, the Zurich Economist touched on, this failure to launch marks a loss of human talent that can carry long-lasting penalties as young men struggle to play catch-up. Economists have even blamed the slide in marriages and out-of-wedlock births on a decline in employed, marriageable men.
25-year-old Nathan Butcher, pictured above, was sick and tired of earning minimum wage at a pizzaria - quitting his job in June. "He wants new employment but won’t take a gig he’ll hate," reports Bloomberg. "So for now, the Pittsburgh native and father to young children is living with his mother and training to become an emergency medical technician, hoping to get on the ladder toward a better life."
Butcher has a high school diploma and a resume stacked with low-wage jobs from places like Walmart and Target. We can't imagine why he's unable to find a higher paying job, however perhaps the phrase "the bigger the gauges the lower the wages" applies.
"I’m very quick to get frustrated when people refuse to pay me what I’m worth," Butcher told Bloomberg. Meanwhile, his mother worked to support her three kids, "whether she liked her job or not."
"That was the template for that generation: you were either working and unhappy, or you were a mooch," he said. "People feel that they have choice nowadays, and they do."
In other words, millennials feel entitled to a better job.
There is no one explanation for what’s sidelining men -- data suggest overlapping trends -- but Butcher sits at a revealing vantage point. His demographic has seen the single biggest jump in non-participation among prime-age men over the past two decades: About 14 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds with just a high-school degree weren’t in the labor force in 2016, up from 6.4 percent in 1996, according to Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City analysis by economist Didem Tuzemen. -Bloomberg
So - are young millennial men choosing to remain on the sidelines until the perfect job presents itself on a silver platter?
Bloomberg even speculates that better video games might make leisure time more attractive, while opioid use is possibly affecting others. Another thought is that "Young adults increasingly live with their parents, and cohabitation might be providing a “different form of insurance,” said Erik Hurst, an economist at the University of Chicago."
Meanwhile, millennial men are reporting higher rates of school and training as a reason for their non-employment, according to a Labor Department survey, while a large percentage say that disability and illness are keeping them on the couch.
If this problem doesn't correct itself, there are going to be a lot of homeless people in the coming decades who have blown through any inheritance their boomer parents left them, should they be fortunate enough to receive one.