The trade war is dragging on. The yield curve is inverting. Investors are fleeing to safety. Global growth is slowing. The stock market is dipping. The Millennials are screwed.
Recessions are never good for anyone. A sputtering economy means miserable financial, emotional, and physical-health consequences for everyone from infants to retirees. But the next one—if it happens, when it starts happening—stands to hit this much-maligned generation particularly hard. For adults between the ages of 22 and 38, after all, the last recession never really ended.
Millennials got bodied in the downturn, have struggled in the recovery, and are now left more vulnerable than other, older age cohorts. As they pitch toward middle age, they are failing to make it to the middle class, and are likely to be the first generation in modern economic history to end up worse off than their parents. The next downturn might make sure of it, stalling their careers and sucking away their wages right as the Millennials enter their prime earning years.
It was the last downturn—the once-a-century Great Recession—that set them on this doddering economic course. The Millennials graduated into the worst jobs market in 80 years. That did not just mean a few years of high unemployment, or a couple years living in their parents’ basements. It meant a full decade of lost wages. The generation unlucky enough to enter the labor market in a recession suffers “significant” earnings losses that take years and years to rebound, studies show, something that hard data now back up. As of 2014, Millennial men were earning no more than Gen X men were when they were the same age, and 10 percent less than Baby Boomers—despite the economy being far bigger and the country far richer. Millennial women were earning less than Gen X women.