Millennials, America's favorite generation to hate, have racked up a lot of problems since the last recession. They've tallied obscene amounts of student debt. Rents are soaring. They're short on cash to buy homes. And a fast-changing job market has them rethinking how to earn their pay.
As graduation season gets underway, Bloomberg asked economists what career advice they could offer to the newest pack of millennials joining the workforce. Here's what they had to say.
The economy last year added jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Those employment gains are making room for many of our youngest and least experienced members of the workforce, who were often the first to get cut in the recession and the last to get hired in the economic recovery.
"2015 college grads are entering the best job market in about a decade," said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Inc. in Lexington, Massachusetts. "Jobs growth is strong and competition for many positions is less intense."
See the unemployment rate for 20- to 24-year-olds below. After spiking to 17.2 percent in April 2010, the gauge is now almost half the level of that postwar high.
"Applicants who are willing to move to opportunities are going to have much more luck in this environment," said Mike Fratantoni, chief economist at the Mortgage Bankers Association in Washington.
If other strong preferences aren't holding you back, perhaps another look at some of the states with the lowest joblessness (Hello, North Dakota!) will have you loading up the U-Haul:
No matter what your parents tell you, job-hopping in your early years after graduation is completely normal.
"You will likely work for many employers over your career," said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial Holdings Inc. in Chicago. "It's a fine line to walk between being loyal and reliable and still learning enough to continue growing."
There's actually a slight pay advantage to switching employers early on, according to research that followed the careers of young men.
And take comfort that all this upheaval becomes less necessary as you get older, wiser and (hopefully) at a company that's a better fit for you. Last year, the typical 20- to 24-year-old American had been at his or her employer for 1.3 years and 25- to 34-year-olds had been at their jobs for three years, compared with the median tenure of 4.6 years for workers across all age groups.
If you can scrape together the cash, or are willing to rack up the debt, another degree might prove to be one of the best investments you can make.
"Graduate school has become more of a must than an option for those looking for a career instead of just a job," said Swonk.
Workers with advanced degrees tend to get paid a lot more than those with only a college education.
"Become comfortable working with machines and with business partners remote and local," said Dana Saporta, director of U.S. economics research at Credit Suisse Securities LLC in New York. "If you haven’t done so already, study at least the basics of computer programming."
Beyond those basics, getting friendlier with computers certainly has a financial upside. Computer and information research scientists enjoyed median annual pay of $102,190 in 2012, compared with $34,750 for all workers that year, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The BLS estimates that these jobs will grow by 15 percent between 2012 and 2022. Other technical positions face similarly favorable outlooks.
"Stay flexible, and be willing to make learning a lifetime pursuit," Saporta said.
Employers have gotten stingier in the past few years about offering financial assistance to their workers taking on more schooling, yet there's still about a 50-50 chance your company will help you in these pursuits, according to 2014 survey data from the Society for Human Resource Management. If your workplace is in the less generous half, you could always learn for free.
It's not just that these jobs will crush your soul. The nature of this kind of work (characterized by the same well-defined procedures, without much variability) means that robots will soon be able to perform them faster and better and cheaper than you, if they can't already.
"There are three kinds of jobs: those that machines will soon be able to do, those that machines make more valuable, and those that machines are unlikely to affect anytime soon," said Erik Brynjolfsson, economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. Steering clear of that first category means avoiding "routine information-processing work and routine manual jobs, from basic financial analysis and routine legal work, to bookkeeping and middle-management."
Those jobs have already been on the decline:
"In some fields, such as science, technology, engineering and math, there is a skills shortage," said Behravesh. "This means that starting salaries can be two to three times higher than in other fields."
Those with college degrees in "STEM" fields — science, technology, engineering or mathematics — raked in the highest earnings in their first job out of school, according to 2009-13 Census Bureau data compiled by Georgetown University:
In keeping with the types of jobs that aren't under threat from robots, grads also might be well-advised to consider positions that rely on human interaction, Brynjolfsson said. Jobs that require "high emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills, motivation, nurturing or artistic talent" are among those least likely to be replicated by machines, he said. Aspiring nurses and teachers, rejoice.
As internships proliferate as a low-risk way for employers to test-drive candidates, fewer of the traditional, more secure "entry-level" jobs are available, said Ethan Harris, co-head of global economics research at Bank of America Corp. in New York.
"This means the job seeker may need to compromise and take a job that starts as an internship," Harris said. "The hope is that as the labor market improves, the market moves back into balance with more paid entry-level jobs."
Those making their first foray into the labor force also might find the paycheck isn't as generous as it used to be.