Young people are getting more jobs, but they're stuck in low-wage sectors

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Young workers between the ages of 18 and 34 are disproportionately likely to work in industries where median wages have declined or remained unchanged over the last decade, according to a new report from Young Invincibles, a left-leaning nonprofit organization focused on empowering young people.

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While Bureau of Labor Statistics figures released Friday show that unemployment remains at 5.8 percent, a much healthier figure than several years ago, many young people, particularly those without college degrees, have struggled to find well-paying jobs.

This has major economic implications, because while young adults make up a third of the workforce today, that share is expected to grow to half by 2020. If these young people continue to work in sectors where wage growth is stagnant, Young Invincibles warns, the overall economy could suffer.

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Among 18- to 24-year-olds, leisure and hospitality and retail and wholesale are the two most common job sectors in every state in the country. Unfortunately, wages have declined in both sectors from their pre-recession highs.

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Millennials who work in healthcare have fared the best and wages in that industry have actually climbed. While few young millennials work in the industry, it is popular among older millennials.

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While the U.S. now produces more college graduates than ever, Young Invincibles argues the country should do more not only to educate people, but to align the education people receive with the needs of the economy.

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Bolstering technical colleges and vocational training programs, for instance, could help young people gain access to manufacturing jobs. Manufacturing pays the highest salaries among the sectors most popular with young people. Providing students with better information about which industries are growing and access to counseling on financial literacy could also help.

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Such initiatives, Young Invincibles argues, might help drive more millennials toward more secure, higher-wage careers.

Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.

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