Workforce Statistics by Generations

Workforce Statistics by Generations
May 2015
Category: Business

We are constantly being presented with new reports and studies on the different generations and how they effect economic conditions, from buying patterns and behaviors to how they shape the workforce and drive new trends for the work place. In more recent news, reports have shown that Millennials are now beginning to out number the Baby Boomers and Generation X in the workforce. Here is a look into the numbers.
There is a wide variety of definitions for the different generations. The Baby Boomer generation is the only clearly defined and recognized generation. These are folks who were born between 1946 and 1964 (currently age 51 to 69 years). Generation X (a.k.a. Gen X) is mostly recognized as those who were born between 1965 and 1979 (currently age 36 to 50 years). Generation Y (most commonly referred to as the Millennials) has the most varying definition. Sometimes they are recognized as being born between 1980 to 1994, 1980 to 2000, and 1980 to 2004. For the purposes of this article, since 16 is the legal minimum age a person can join the workforce, Millennials will be defined as those being born between 1980 and 2000 (currently age 16 to 35 years).
This seems like the big question everyone is asking right now. The short answer is -Yes, the Millennials are beginning to take over the workforce, at least in numbers that is. Hopefully you are not surprised. It was destined to happen eventually and it appears that 2015 is the magic year. Millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce and nothing short of a wave of retirees coming back to work is going to change that. In fact the magnitude will only get stronger with current projections suggesting that by the year 2020, Millennials will make up 50% of the workforce globally.
Generational groups have and will always be a part of the population conversation. It is how we identify ourselves. Therefore the concept of a new generation taking its place in the workforce is not a new phenomena. At one point in time, there were headlines and discussions about the uncertainties of the Baby Boomers taking their place in the workforce as that generation came of age during the 1980's. Because these groups are a static, meaning you are either in the group or not based on your birth year, old and new groups alike will continuously move through the lifecycles of adolescence, young adult, adult, senior, retirement, etc. So, not to be a forecaster of the obvious, but "Generation Z expected to dominate the workforce next year" is a headline you will see in the future.
The chart below displays the total U.S. population by generation. There are currently 74.8 million Baby Boomers, 61.1 million Gen X'ers, and 86.9 million Millennials in the United States. 
Hypothetically speaking, if we take the average age of retirement, which is 62 years old (most people plan to retire at 65, but end up retiring a few years before), and subtract that from the total Baby Boomer population, the potential workforce numbers look something like this:
Given this estimate, the Baby Boomer workforce candidates have become largely outnumbered by Generation X and the Millennials.
If you Google the term "Millennials", you will find pages upon pages of research on who the Millennials are. Even though we are presented with constant analyses showcasing the aggregated preferences and behaviors of the Millennials, they are in fact quite unique individuals and in many cases have a broader range of preferences and life choices than what we find in Baby Boomers and Generation X populations. They are the first generation to grow up since birth with globally connected technology (i.e. they had computers, internet, and cell phones and so much more in their households). Smartphones, tablets, social media, starting earlier and longer educational programs, and greater access to travel have played critical roles in their lives, giving the greater exposure to more cultural influences than any past generation. We also can not ignore the fact that even though Millennials are technically defined by the year they were born, there are many differences in people who were born in the early 80's to those born in the late 90's, for one because they are in different life stages (high schoolers, college students, young professionals entering the workforce, and those who have established a place in the workforce), but also because of the exposure the technology and cultural influences.
Regardless of the point above, the Millennials use of technology is one of the things that sets them apart from the other generations. That said, it is important to note that while we are boasting the dynamics of the Millennial generation's use of technology,  sometimes forgotten that the early pioneers of the most fundamental components of technology are the work of Generation X. The Millennials who are using technology to make major impacts are typically not working in isolation of their preceding generation, but in many, or perhaps most cases, they are working in complementary fashion.
While Millennials are the up and coming generation, with the number of those in leadership roles expected to grow in 2015, Baby Boomers still control a lot of the nation's wealth, much more so than the eye actually captures. On the other hand, much of the current economy in both business and political functions are being guided by Generation X'ers. (Think of business leaders such as Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft or 2016 presidential candidate Marco Rubio). Gen X'ers have some of the highest earnings in the workforce and control most of the leading management positions. 
The following chart is a breakdown of the seven Central Pennsylvania counties by generations. Lancaster County leads Central PA with the total population is all three generation groups, followed by York County. In Adams, Dauphin, Lebanon, Franklin, and York Counties, the total Baby Boomer population is still larger than the Millennial population. In Cumberland and Lancaster Counties, the total Millennial population is now the largest generation group.
The heat map below displays the percentage of the population that fall into the Millennial generation by census tract. Areas that are darker represent a higher percentage of the population that are Millennials, while lighter areas represent a lower percentage of the population that are Millennials.
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