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Millennials Reach Median Wages Later in Life

Gen Yers are getting a slower start on their careers, thanks to a soft economy and a changing professional landscape. A recent report finds that these delays have far-reaching impacts for younger workers, who may hit the sweet spot in their careers later than previous generations.

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(Photo Credit: Travis Isaacs/Flickr)

The Wall Street Journal reports that recent research from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce shows that Gen Y workers are 30 years old, on average, before they hit median earnings of $42,000 per year. The study examined census data from 1980 to 2012, and found that only a third of adults in their early 20s work full-time. By their late 20s, that figure rises to about half.

Labor force participation among younger workers is at its lowest point in 40 years, the study finds. The recession, combined with trends toward Americans working longer into what used to be the retirement years and jobs that require advanced skills, have created an environment in which younger workers start their careers later.

"The combination of structural change plus this particular recession has been devastating for millennials," study co-author Anthony Carnevale tells The Wall Street Journal. Carnevale estimates that Gen Y workers will lose a minimum of 3 percent in lifetime earnings. "It has really knocked them back, and some of these losses are permanent."

PayScale's Generations at Work data package shows that the post-recession world of work is a tough one for all workers, regardless of age. While Gen Y workers are having trouble building their careers, Gen X workers are behind on saving for retirement, and Baby Boomers are finding themselves less able to retire in comfort than their parents.

"Similar to other studies, our research reinforces that the sluggish and uncertain economy has made a significant impact on the perspectives and experiences of not only Generation Y, but also Generation X and Baby Boomers," says Katie Bardaro, lead economist for PayScale. "It is also important to note the complexities that each generation possesses based upon so many economic, cultural, and sociological conditions and issues."

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