Millennials are Job-Hoppers: Fact or Fiction?

Many people see millennials as job wanderers, eager to bolt at a new work opportunity. Here’s a reality check.

It’s official. Millennials are now the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. More than 1 in 3 American workers is a millennial (ages 18 to 34).

This may concern you, especially if you’ve heard that millennials are disloyal, entitled, self-absorbed job-hoppers, which seems to be the popular consensus. But according to FiveThirtyEight.com, if that causes you distress, you can relax, because that’s not the case.

A recent Wall Street Journal article said the median job tenure for millennial workers ages 20 to 24 was 16 months. For their older millennial colleagues (ages 25 to 34), the tenure was three years. For all workers ages 25 and older, the median job tenure is 5.5 years.

Using those figures, it does appear that millennial workers are more likely than older generations to jump from one job to the next. But according to FiveThirtyEight, those numbers are misleading.

“Sure, most people in their early 20s are fairly new to their jobs, but most of them are fairly new to the workforce, period,” FiveThirtyEight said.

The truth is younger workers change jobs more often than older workers. It’s nothing new. And it’s definitely not a trend unique to millennials. FiveThirtyEight said:

Numbers on job tenure for Americans in their 20s were almost exactly the same in the 1980s as they are today. … Every month, about 3 percent of young workers (defined here as those between 22 and 29) change jobs, compared to about 4 percent in the mid-1990s.

Despite this, many bosses are concerned about retaining their younger employees.

“There is a very pronounced level of unease” about young workers and their loyalty to employers, Caroline Ghosn, founder and chief executive of Levo League, an online career-development network geared to young women, told the WSJ.

LinkedIn writer Paul Petrone recently penned the article, Millennials Are Not Job-Hopping (And That’s a Bad Thing).

“When you look at the cold, hard facts, … millennials – and workers across the board – are more loyal than they have been in some time,” Petrone wrote.

He then explained that a decline in young adult job-hopping is an indication that the economy isn’t doing well.

It’s a simple formula, really: the better the economy, the more opportunity, the more people changing out their old jobs for better ones. The worse the economy, the less opportunity out there, and so people stay at their jobs longer.

So, really, job-hopping is an indicator of a good economy. And it also forces up wages, because there is more competition for labor.

Petrone wrote that he expects the job-hopping movement to shift this year, as the economy improves and millennials feel comfortable changing jobs.

Stay tuned: As things get better, more broadly, the ability of companies to hold on to their young workers may get more challenging.

Stacy Johnson

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