Older millennials are killing it at work — but at what cost?

New research shows that we’re staying successfully employed. Here’s what could be behind the data.

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Well, I guess it’s time that I and other millenials of my age get ready for dentures, orthopedic shoes, and cheesecake on the lanai, because we’re golden, girls (rest in power, Betty White.) Not saying this just because the obnoxious new term for people aged 35 to 44 is “geriatric millennials” but also because we’re killing the game in our careers. New data shows that older millennials are leading the pack as far as employment right now.

Let’s not celebrate too quickly though, since there’s a lot to unpack here. According to Insider's analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data, elder milliennials are the only generational age group among those tracked to report a higher level of employment then before the pandemic. In fact, the unemployment rate for my age group was 3.3% in December 2021, which is well below the national unemployment rate of 3.9%.

Perhaps this is because it isn't our first ride on the recession train. The worst demographic in terms of job growth was those aged 16 to 19 since, as you may wager, high schoolers’ job prospects are not plentiful at the moment thanks to COVID.

Even though there was a decline in new jobs added to the BLS in December, employment reported by households rose significantly the very same month. One guess as to why could be the fact that freelancing jobs and hourly gigs are becoming a more ubiquitous employment option these days. Moreover, there’s reason to believe elder millennials might be in higher demand.

“They can help straddle the divide,” says author Erica Dhawan, who coined the “geriatric millennial” phrase, to Insider. “They can teach traditional communication skills to some of those younger employees and digital body language to older team members.” She also adds that two recessions later, we have the upper hand in the workplace, since there’s more demand for mid level workers and a catch-up in postponed job switching now that the economy is wrapping up again even though, frankly there’s still a pandemic going on. That may be why the great resignation includes so many millennials and why so many employers are (allegedly) desperate to keep us.

Old millennials surely are ripe for an employment revolution, but a question remains here that the data doesn’t seem to clarify: Are we elder states-people simply accepting jobs that may not be great for us? Are we more compliant because we come from a culture of accepting workplace injustices? Are we just more patient when we shouldn’t be? I’m not loving where my mind is going with this.

While this data points to how we’ve been staying employed — which is great, of course — there’s no specific mention of the jobs elder millennials are leaving versus what they’re taking. Sure, hospitality jobs are increasing, but are millennials outside that industry moving into it because jobs in their field are more out of reach?

While work is work, this data is not painting the complete picture and should leave us with questions — especially if we’re one of these elder millennials.

Also, it’s possible that people in their 30s and 40s may still subscribe to that old-school “stay at a job for a while” mentality. According to a Zapier’s Digital Natives Report, millennial employees intend to stay at their current job for 10 years. That may point to the idea that the great resignation was fueled by necessity, rather than a better rate, a dream job that popped up during a pandemic, or the ability to work from home in your PJs.