And a strong economy doesn’t appear to be helping much at all
An FKD Feature exclusive

The 25-to-34-year-old male cohort isn’t benefiting as strongly from the robust economy as one would hope. Some are in training, while others have claimed a disability. But, whatever the cause, the employment statistics don’t look good for this demographic. In fact, 500,000 millennial males are missing from the workforce. Although only slightly younger, males age 25 to 34 are struggling to keep up with the strides of their older counterparts.  

Meet Nathan Butcher

Butcher is a 25-year-old male who has worked innumerable, low-paying jobs from Walmart to his local grocery store. Now again out of work, he aims to be more discerning in his job choices. With two children and plenty of debt, Butcher still remains obstinate about just taking any ole job. Perhaps a generational trait, Butcher concedes that his mother worked whatever job she could get in order to raise her three children: “That was the template for that generation: you were either working and unhappy, or you were a mooch,” he said. “People feel that they have a choice nowadays, and they do.”

What’s holding young men back?

There is no real explanation — no good, all-encompassing one, at least. But there are indicators. For instance, take Butcher: His demographic has seen the biggest jump in non-participation in the workforce for more than two decades. Fourteen percent aged 25 to 34 failed to join the workforce in 2016 (up from 6.4 percent in 1996), according to a Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City analysis by economist Didem Tuzemen.

Do young men choose this for themselves? Or are they being forcefully and unintentionally sidelined from the workforce? It still isn’t clear why millennials are being singled out and hit the hardest in the job market. Although it is surmised that one possible explanation could be the lack of well-paying jobs that are keeping young males in school for longer.

Some social factors

It is not that there are no theories as to what may be causing the demographic disparity. For instance, some economists even are hypothesizing that better video games could make leisure time more attractive. Others point the finger at the opioid crisis that may be responsible for making the millennial male demographic imminently less employable. Erik Hurst, an economist at the University of Chicago, expects that the tendency for millennial males to live at home has something to do with it. The increase in cohabitation, he surmises, might provide a “different form of insurance.” An important question: Is the decline in employment for this demographic permanent?

Well, is it?

According to a survey by the U.S. Labor Department, young men are citing everything from increased schooling and training to disability and illness keeping them out of work. To the disability question, owing to disability insurance beginning to fail, these “disabled” may indeed begin to trickle back into the workforce very soon. As for those who claim a need for more schooling as their reason for failing to enter the workforce, this trend does not seem to be reversing anytime soon, nor should it, necessarily.

Butcher, for one, hopes that emergency medical training (EMT) at his community college will not hinder but help his goal of a career in health care. He still holds out hope to provide enough money to take care of his son and his daughter, who both live with their mother.


The male millennial demographic is suffering. Unable to find gainful employment, many are returning to school or even going on disability. Whether this troubling trend is going to be long-lasting still remains unclear. After all, a reversal may be on the horizon. But, as for now, approximately 30 percent of millennial men still have no job: 8 percent are unemployed while 22 percent are not engaged in the workforce at all. Those are some pretty staggering numbers.


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Posted 03.06.2019 - 01:42 pm EDT