Millennials, Gen X slow to return to work

Despite job vacancies at a high and payrolls growing, some younger workers are choosing not to reenter the workforce, The Wall Street Journal reported Nov. 19.

Around 1.4 million fewer adults aged 25-54 are looking for work or are currently working than in February 2020. In October 2021, these prime-age workers had an 81.7 percent workforce participation rate, compared to 82.9 percent in February 2020. 

School reopenings and the expiration of unemployment benefits haven't pushed as many workers as expected back into the workforce. Others cite work-life balance and burnout as reasons why the millennials and Generation Xers are slower to come back to work. 

"I don't think it's lost on people that it's a hot jobs market and that they don't need to be in a hurry to jump in," Jason Furman, PhD, a Harvard Kennedy School economist and professor, told The Wall Street Journal. "There will still be jobs waiting for them a few months from now."

Fear of the pandemic and the related health risks may also be holding back some prime-age workers.

"Once the fear of the pandemic subsides, I expect those men and women of prime age are going to come back to the workforce," said Beth Ann Bovino, PhD, chief U.S. economist at S&P Global.

However, a Goldman Sachs analysis suggested that prime-age workers who dropped out of the labor force during the pandemic plan to reenter in the next year. For now, their joining rate remains slow. 

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