WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. mobility for young adults has fallen to the lowest level in more than 50 years as cash-strapped 20-somethings shun home-buying and refrain from major moves in a weak job market.
The new 2013 figures from the Census Bureau, which reversed earlier signs of recovery, underscore the impact of the sluggish economy on young people, many of them college graduates, whom demographers sometimes refer to as “Generation Wait.”
Burdened with college debt or toiling in low-wage jobs, they are delaying careers, marriage and having children. Waiting anxiously for their lucky break, they are staying put and doubling up with roommates or living with Mom and dad, unable to make long-term plans or commit to buying a home — let alone pay a mortgage.
Many understood after the 2007-2009 recession that times would be tough. But few say they expected to be in economic limbo more than four years later.
“I’m constantly looking for other jobs,” says Jeremy Bills, 27, of Nashville, Tenn., who graduated from Vanderbilt University in May 2011 with a master’s degree in human and organizational development. Originally from Tampa, Fla., Bills has stayed put in his college town in hopes of finding a job in management consulting or human resources. Instead, he has mostly found odd jobs like pulling weeds and dog-sitting.
Bills says he pursued a master’s degree to bolster his credentials after getting his college diploma in 2008, shortly before the financial meltdown. Instead, he finds himself still struggling financially and worrying that the skills he learned in school — where he incurred $20,000 in student loan debt — are “kind of atrophying right now.”
“It’s not like riding a bicycle. You can’t just jump into a career position so many years after training,” said Bills, who now works at a nonprofit organization making $12 an hour and is looking for a second job.
Among adults ages 25-29, just 4.9 million, or 23.3 percent, moved in the 12 months ending March 2013. That’s down from 24.6 percent in the same period the year before. It was the lowest level since at least 1963.