The Great Millennial Meltdown

Young Americans bearing brunt of economic malaise

Barack Obama / AP
• August 2, 2012 9:57 am


Millennials are bearing the brunt of the slow recovery and losing faith in President Obama, according to Paul T. Conway, former Chief of Staff at the US Department of Labor and current President of Generation Opportunity.

On Friday, the Labor Department will release its jobs report for July. Their June report put the unemployment of young adults (18-29) at 12.8 percent, but 1.7 million young adults went uncounted because they have stopped looking for work. Taking account for them increases the jobless rate to 16.8 percent.

"This means that this generation is the hardest hit since World War II," Conway told the Free Beacon. The sluggish economy creates "a devastating delay in the careers and the dreams of young Americans."

Last year, Generation Opportunity polled 600 young Americans between 18 and 29, and found that 77 percent "are delaying major life changes due to economic restraints." The poll found 44 percent have delayed buying a home, 28 percent have delayed saving for retirement, 23 percent have delayed starting a family, and 18 percent have delayed marriage.

"An entire demographic is being set back," Conway said, "not just for a few months, but two, three, even five, years. … Businesses are not investing in risky entry-level jobs."

Economic woes are depressing Obama’s support among Millennials. While 66 percent voted for Obama in 2008, last year’s poll found that only 31 percent approve of Obama’s handling of youth unemployment.

Fifty-six percent voiced distrust in Washington, and 69 percent said, "political leaders do NOT reflect the interests of young Americans." These numbers reflect "extreme frustration," Conway said.

"This is a generation focused on solutions," he said, "not beholden to a political party." He described Millenials as "very entrepreneurial," noting, "One of their heroes is Steve Jobs." Sixty-nine percent of those polled supported "reducing federal spending over raising personal taxes to balance the budget."

Conway had harsh words for Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. "The Labor Department has become a vehicle through which the President implements policy by law, by regulation, and by fiat," he said.

Conway listed the Labor Department’s crackdown on unpaid internships as an example.

"If a business doesn’t have the means to pay but someone who is young and willing to learn skills as an unpaid intern volunteers, the Labor Department says the business can’t hire him," he said.

Conway also mentioned the Labor Department’s response to upcoming sequestration. After last summer’s debt deal, cuts to the Defense Department are set to come into effect next January.

"Secretary Solis indicated that private contractors should not give advice to employees," if they plan mass-layoffs, Conway said. While the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires most employers to give 60 days’ notice of labor cut-backs, Solis said that warning employees before the November election would be "inappropriate."

Conway said that many of the workers that would have to be laid off due to the cuts live in key swing states such as Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, and Ohio.

Republican Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Kelly Ayotte visited Florida, New Hampshire, Virginia, and North Carolina to protest the cuts.

Conway emphasized the importance of millennial voters. "This is the generation that watched 9/11, that fought the war on terror, that witnessed the economic collapse," he said. "They have not lost faith in America—they want an opportunity to go to work."

Political parties and political candidates "have to earn their vote."

"It looks as though, over the past 18 months, one incumbent is losing their vote in large numbers," Conway said. Nevertheless, "the opinion of this demographic is very divided."

Published under: Barack Obama, Obama Economy