Class of 2023: Young people see better job opportunities
We began this blog post series discussing the promising employment prospects for young people ages 16–24 as they graduate from high school and college this spring. As of the latest data, the unemployment rate for young people is the lowest in 70 years. In part two of our series, we delve into young people’s working hours and employment by industry, compared with 2019 before the pandemic recession.
On key measures of job quality, young people face a better labor market today than in 2019. This represents an extraordinarily strong job market recovery for young workers—especially compared with previous recessions. In particular, we find:
- Young workers are more likely to have predictable work hours and work full time than in 2019.
- All workers, but particularly young workers, are more likely to work only one job in 2023 than in 2019.
- Young people are most likely to work in leisure and hospitality, retail trade, and education and health services, both now and pre-pandemic. Due largely to this industry concentration of employment, they suffered the greatest job losses during the pandemic recession in food services and drinking places and educational services.
- Young people gained the most employment in construction and transportation, particularly in jobs as couriers and messengers as well as warehousing and storage.
Young workers in particular have experienced a shift to more predictable and full-time work hours. Figure A shows that nearly half (47.5%) of young workers are working full time in 2023, an increase of 1.2 percentage points from 2019. A smaller percentage of young workers have hours that vary in their main job in 2023, decreasing from 7.5% in 2019 to 6.8%. Workers ages 25 and older also saw some gains in full-time work and a reduction in jobs with varying hours (not shown).
Young workers are more likely to work full time: Share of young workers who work full time, part time, and have hours that vary, 2019 and 2023
|Full time||Part time||Hours vary|
Note: "Full time" is defined as greater than or equal to 40 hours worked per week. Hours include only those worked at main job. Data for 2023 represent the 12 month average ending in March 2023; data for 2019 represent the calendar year 2019.
While there are exceptions, it’s generally understood that workers prefer to make ends meet with one main job as opposed to piecing together income from multiple jobs. While the share of all workers who have more than one job has fallen between 2019 and 2023, young workers have seen a greater decline. As shown in Figure B, the share of young workers who have more than one job has fallen from 5.1% to 4.2% over the past four years, while the share of workers ages 25 and older with more than one job has fallen just 0.2 percentage points over the same period.
Workers are less likely to have more than one job in 2023: Share of workers who have more than one job, by age, 2019 and 2023
Note: Data for 2023 represent the 12 month average ending in March 2023; data for 2019 represent the calendar year 2019.
Table 1 shows the industries where young people work for their main job. The largest employers of young people are in three major industries: leisure and hospitality (24.0%), wholesale and retail trade (20.2%), and education and health services (17.0%). During the pandemic recession, young workers faced the highest job losses across workers by age group because of their concentration in employment in these industries that have face-to-face jobs. Although wholesale and retail trade jobs more than fully recovered by 2023, leisure and hospitality jobs have not.
Young workers have gained more than 130,000 jobs in retail trade since 2019, which has led to their almost 3% net job gain in the overall trade sector. However, shifts in demand have reduced employment in leisure and hospitality compared with pre-pandemic levels. This has ultimately hit young workers harder because leisure and hospitality makes up a larger share of their overall employment relative to workers ages 25 and older.
Education and health services also hasn’t recovered to pre-pandemic job levels for young workers. Most jobs in this major industry were lost in educational services, which saw a loss of 133,000 jobs between 2019 and 2023. Within the education industry, the losses were primarily in the college and university sector, which includes junior colleges.
The largest gains in employment among young people between 2019 and 2023 were in transportation and utilities (roughly +305,000 jobs) and construction (nearly +143,000 jobs).
Transportation and warehousing is the largest detailed industry within the major transportation and utilities industry, and grew by just over 291,000 young workers between 2019 and 2023. Couriers and messengers and warehousing and storage saw gains of roughly 158,000 and 99,000 jobs, respectively. This trend is consistent with the move toward online ordering and delivery in the pandemic.
The shift in the sectors where young people work can help explain the shift to full-time employment and away from holding multiple jobs. Table 2 shows hours and multiple job holding by major industry, sorted from the largest job gains to the largest job losses between 2019 and 2023. In the job-gaining industries—notably transportation and utilities and construction—workers are more likely to be full time than workers in job-losing industries (education and health services and leisure and hospitality). Young workers in those industries that gained jobs are also less likely to have another job than workers in industries that lost jobs.
In the final blog post in our young adult series, we will dive deeper into the wages for young workers, exploring how their wages have changed over the pandemic and differ across demographic groups.
Employment of young workers, by select industries, 2019–2023
|Employment (share within industry category)||Change|
|Industry (share of total, 2023)||2019||2023||Level, 2019-2023||Percent, 2019-2023|
|Educational and health services (17.0%)||3,392,837||3,345,669||-47,168||-1.4%|
|Educational services||1,371,546 (40.4%)||1,238,626 (37.0%)||-132,920||-9.7%|
|Colleges and universities, including junior colleges||695,153 (50.7%)||544,281 (43.9%)||-150,872||-21.7%|
|Elementary and secondary schools||513,604 (37.5%)||533,477 (43.1%)||19,873||3.9%|
|Leisure and hospitality (24.0%)||4,812,010||4,717,968||-94,042||-2.0%|
|Food services and drinking places||3,798,490 (78.9%)||3,746,381 (79.4%)||-52,109||-1.4%|
|Professional and business services (8.2%)||1,579,657||1,620,981||41,324||2.6%|
|Administrative and support services||662,998 (43.9%)||727,167 (46.1%)||64,169||9.7%|
|Transportation and utilities (5.3%)||740,774||1,046,203||305,429||41.2%|
|Transportation and warehousing||674,026 (91.0%)||965,104 (92.3%)||291,078||43.2%|
|Couriers and messengers||190,173 (28.2%)||348,352 (36.1%)||158,179||83.2%|
|Warehousing and storage||130,536 (19.4%)||229,254 (23.8%)||98,718||75.6%|
|Wholesale and retail trade (20.2%)||3,862,845||3,965,850||103,005||2.7%|
|Retail trade||3,590,671 (93.0%)||3,723,844 (93.9%)||133,173||3.7%|
Notes: We remove all sectors that had less than 5% of young adult employment in both 2019 and 2023. This includes agriculture, financial activities, information, mining, other services, and public administration. Data reflect employment at main job. Data for 2023 represent the 12 month average ending in March 2023; data for 2019 represent the calendar year 2019.
Share of young adults working full time, part time, variable hours, and multiple jobs by major industry, 2023
|Industry||Full-time||Part-time||Hours vary||Multiple job holder|
|Transportation and utilities (+305k)||58.1%||34.5%||7.5%||3.4%|
|Wholesale and retail trade (+103k)||38.2%||55.2%||6.5%||3.4%|
|Professional and business services (+41k)||68.7%||26.1%||5.2%||4.1%|
|Educational and health services (-47k)||45.3%||49.0%||5.7%||6.1%|
|Leisure and hospitality (-94k)||23.0%||67.8%||9.3%||4.5%|
Notes: We remove all sectors that had less than 5% of young adult employment in 2023. This includes agriculture, financial activities, information, mining, other services, and public administration. Data reflect employment at main job. Data for 2023 represent the 12 month average ending in March 2023.
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