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Millennials Find Themselves in Retail, and it’s not Going so Well

August 24, 2012 Updated: September 9, 2020

If you’re a young millennial today, you’re working in retail.

In a study published this week by Generation Y research firm Millennial Branding in conjunction with PayScale, it was found that the most common job among Millennials, or Generation Y, is sales representative or merchandise displayer.  Not only were these the most common among this generation, but Millennials are five times more likely to hold these jobs, in comparison to all workers.

There would not be anything wrong with this, except the fact that these positions tend to be among the lowest paid jobs.

According to a recent article from USA TODAY, “for an age group struggling with a poor job outlook and hefty student loans, many settle for retail while they look for jobs in their preferred field”, says Dan Schawbel, managing partner at Millennial Branding. “A lot of them will end up in these retail jobs while applying for professional jobs and hoping there’ll be openings,” he says.

The study of 500,000 worker profiles shows that over half of merchandise displayers have a Bachelors Degree, and 83% of clothing sales associates have them as well.

The bad job economy has resulted in many similar cases, where recent graduates are forced to retain retail jobs they previously held while in school, or otherwise.  It is unfortunate that millennials cannot find work in the fields they spend thousands of dollars to be educated in, but what’s worse is that the retail jobs they move into, cannot support a living wage most of the time.  This is not just true for millennials, but for countless others who work in retail, struggling to make a living.

young workers sticking together

Stagnating wages and income inequality are ever-growing issues in our country.  Workers who are overworked, underpaid and do not have any job security or benefits are all too commonplace. The fear of not being able to pay the bills, getting sick, or getting fired at any moment is plaguing workers in an industry that will become the backbone of the American economy.

So, what can we do about?  We can all take a stand by supporting retailers who provide solid-work schedules, and paychecks and benefits that pay the bills.

Although many millennials see their retail jobs as a transition job, or stepping stone to something bigger, many will end up staying where they are.  That’s why its more important than ever to stick together and advocate for what’s right.  Union workers at retailers like Macys, H&M, Modells, and Bloomingdales already know that having a union voice on the job means they’ll be compensated and treated in a way that reflects their hard work. They’re able to bargain the middle class wages and health care benefits they earn and deserve.

With a union on the job, empowered retail workers can bolster the growing service industry and re-create the modern middle class that workers had in the past, and what we certainly need now.

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