Millennial unemployment: The crisis the candidates ignore

By: Bernie Marcus and Justin Dent

Appeared in The Hill on November 18, 2015


Millennials apparently don’t matter in the 2016 election. After rounds of presidential debates by both parties, we’re stunned that we have yet to see a meaningful appeal to the voting bloc that will decide the 2016 election: Millennials.

Millennials certainly want to hear about college debt solutions, but not promises that make for better sound bites than sound policy. Millennials also care about social issues, but not to the exclusion of the main issue confronting most all of them: jobs.

Don’t talk about economic recovery to a Millennial, for them the Great Recession is still real. A recent report notes that 28 percent of Millennials don’t have a full-time job and around half of them still live at home with their parents. Without decent jobs available, Millennials aren’t even thinking about things like marriage, houses, or cars — they’re just trying to scrape enough money together to pay off the interest on their student loans.

It’s time for politicians to pay serious attention to fostering a new economy, one that embraces the strengths of our country’s young workers. Millennials want a leader who will allow the job creators of the next generation, particularly those in the technology sector, to thrive. What they don’t want is a leader concerned with protecting the vested interests of yesterday’s bureaucrats.

Millenials have paid close attention to the battle waged against industry disrupters through the use of crippling regulations. The failed efforts to curb ridesharing services in New York and Airbnb’s resounding victory over a San Francisco proposal to throttle home-sharing hopefully sent a clear message to politicians: stop trying to suffocate the job creators of the new economy!

While established, large companies and venture capital-backed disrupters can afford to fight back against regulations, small businesses on Main Street are not so lucky. But those small businesses are the true job creators. In October, businesses with 49 or fewer employees added 90,000 total jobs while companies employing 500 or more added only 29,000. Operating under tight budgets, these small businesses count every dollar coming in and going out. Spending on burdensome compliance fees or new taxes can be the difference between making it through the next month or going under, let alone hiring recent high school or college graduates.

According to research conducted by Pew, there are roughly 73.5 million Millennials, about one-third of current eligible voters. For perspective, there are more Millennials than the total population of California and Texas — combined. Without question, the largely ignored Millennial electorate will decide who goes to the White House in 2017.

It’s also time to drop the tired trope about “lazy, entitled Millennials” not showing up at the polls. A recent survey found that that 77 percent of Millennials are “absolutely certain” or “very likely” to vote in 2016. Candidates, it’s time to wake up.

At the next debate, Millennials want a candidate brave enough to propose an actual, concrete plan for taking the country forward and ensuring that businesses increase hiring the next generation. So whether it’s supporting entrepreneurs or recognizing the importance of small business, Millenials need to hear you. They might just decide who wins in 2016.

Marcus is the 86-year-old co-founder of The Home Depot and founder of the Job Creators Network. Dent, a 22-year-old student at the University of Maryland, is co-founder of YoungAmerica.org and its millennial campaign, GenFKD.