It’s official! Millennials are large and in charge… of the labor force.

The generation born between 1981 and 1997 now occupy the largest share of our nation’s workforce – just surpassing Generation X by about 800,000 workers. According to new Pew Research analysis of U.S. Census data, there were 53.5 million Millennials in the workforce in Q1 of this year and that's just expected to rise.

Interestingly, a disproportionately large share of the Millennials are immigrants. Immigrants tend to migrate during their young working years compared with older adults or children.

It didn’t take very long for Millennials to catch up to Generation X. In fact, the rise has been at a rocket pace. In 2005, only about 25 million Millennials were in the labor force compared to 52 million Gen X’ers and 62 million Baby Boomers. Over the past decade we have more than doubled while Gen X’s share of the labor force has stayed relatively unmoved only dipping by one million even during the recession.

Baby Boomers have been retiring out of the workforce since the late 1990s, but 44 million are still in the workforce. Only 3.6 million from the Silent Generation are in the workforce.

While the majority of Millennials are now it he workforce, some are still those rising college freshmen, sophomore, juniors and seniors who are thinking about classes and Greek parties instead of interviews and job fairs.

The challenge for our generation is that it’s hard and still getting harder to find work in this economy. According to Generation Opportunity’s monthly jobs report, the unemployment rate for 18-29 year olds is 13.8 percent, which includes those who have given up looking for work. (In full disclosure: I work for Generation Opportunity). Some 1.83 million young people have dropped out of the job market because they can’t find work.  One in four black and 14 percent of Hispanic young adults are unemployed.

The oldest Generation X'ers have only turned 50 meaning that at best they still have a decade and a half before they retire. And because of lost retirement investments during the recession, Baby Boomers are delaying their retirements.

All of these numbers add up to hardship as a Forbes contributor explains:


By this point, we’ve all realized that we’ve been lied to: working hard and getting a solid education does not necessarily lead to career success, or even a decent-paying job.

What it does lead to is debt and a ruthless job hunt.

Why? Because  the decreasing unemployment rate still means nothing for Millennials.

The data is actually pretty scary: 44% of college grads in their 20’s are stuck in low-wage, dead-end jobs, the highest rate in decades, and the number of young people making less than $25,000 has also spiked to the highest level since the 1990s.

There are various factors contributing to the absence of jobs for Millennials.

First of all, employers are more hesitant to hire new graduates, as Baby Boomers are delaying retirement and holding onto their jobs due to financial insecurity. This creates stagnancy in the workplace.

Moreover, advances in technology are making many jobs obsolete because they can easily and cheaply be automated

The job market simply has not allowed us to enter the workforce and achieve financial security the way that prior generations have been able to. Yet somehow, now we’re being blamed for it, with claims that our reluctance to make these big-ticket purchases is devastating for the economy.

Let's not be too quick to boo-hoo for Millennials. Our generation faces challenges, but also opportunities. As one of the best-educated generations, many are taking their knowledge and using technology to start enterprises. From Uber and Lyft to Airbnb, new companies are disrupting how we live, work, achieve work-life balance, and find fulfillment.

As we reported yesterday, Millennials view leadership in the workforce differently from previous generations. It remains to be seen whether this generation will change the workplace or begin to fall more in line with the work ethos and philosophies of Baby Boomers and Generation X. From delaying marriage to forgoing buying cars and instead buying into car-share programs, Millennials are living differently from the way previous generations lived and choosing lifestyles that reflect that.