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Tom Hoban

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Jim Davis, Editor
Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Youthful rebellion is just what this economy needs

John Mayer's 2006 hit song "Waiting on the World to Change" spoke to younger Americans frustrated with the status quo. Back then, it was war, the environment and other social ills he sang about. If it were written today, Mayer most likely would have to include something else that is gradually coming to define them: Chronically high unemployment.

Since 2009, the unemployment rate for Americans between 18 and 35 years old has been the teens. Only at a GDP growth rate over about 4 percent are enough jobs created to offset those lost and put a dent in the unemployment rate. With economists predicting growth rates under 4 percent and older Americans less willing to retire into an uncertain economy, Generation Y can keep waiting for the world to change while they suffer the most.

Sociologists and economists alike worry about how a left-behind generation of under- and unemployed will shape America if this continues much longer. Real estate investors and developers are studying this very closely as well. With less buying power because of their late start in the employment game, choices on housing may be different for younger Americans, suggests Tom Parson of Holland Development, a regional housing developer. His firm and others are positioning apartment product they are building so that it can convert to condominiums down the road when Generation Y enters the buyer pool. Condos may be their best starter home choice in many markets.

This group of younger Americans, however, is special, even if they don't know it just yet. Arguably, they have more to offer the world than their parents. They are the most educated, connected and entrepreneurial generation, according to many measures. Often viewed by their Baby Boomer parents as a pampered group, they are becoming hardened by what their parents have handed them as they get started in their own adult lives. When they become a force, they'll begin to influence everyday life on their raw numbers just as Baby Boomers did. The high school graduating class of 2008 was the largest in American history, marking the peak of the Echo Boom that defines Generation Y.

Engagement, not waiting, is their next step. The sooner the better for everyone's own good, say some. Their grandparents defined their generation on the beaches of Normandy and the jungles of Iwo Jima in World War II. Their parents softened America but overindulged like no generation prior, leaving the bill for them to pay. Generation Y's way will be different. But their time is now.

Tom Hoban is CEO of The Coast Group of Companies. Contact him at 425-339-3638 or