Leaving the nest: Young adults move forward in big numbers to test the job market

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 6 2015 7:05 p.m. MDT

As teens move forward in the aftermath of a recession, adjustments must be made in moving out of mom and dad's basement. (Shutterstock) As teens move forward in the aftermath of a recession, adjustments must be made in moving out of mom and dad's basement. (Shutterstock)

JIM THORPE, Pa. — Recent Cornell University graduate Sky Fogal stands in the doorway of a small, 40-year-old lake house in the heart of Pennsylvania.

The vintage fake wood veneer paneling is a stark juxtaposition to his parents' three-story lakeside bungalow, where he spent the past six months. Though he will have to adjust to making his own meals and paying his own bills, the transition allows him the dignity of living on his own.

The Internet is full of reports of young adults returning home — college graduates moving into Mom's and Dad's basement to pay student loans hardly met by the job opportunities of today's economy. Leaving home post-recession, though less dramatic, is no less difficult a transition. Young adults 25-29 are the primary out-of-state movers, according to the latest census report. As more American young adults leave the comfort of the nest to test the job market, transition requires some adjustments.

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“I basically went from being a freeloader to a quasi landlord,” Fogal said. "Though living at home as a young person has become widely expected in today's economy, venturing out on my own has afforded me the autonomy I need."

Tip of the iceberg

Young adults 25-29 are leaving for out-of-state job opportunities at the biggest jump — 3.4 percent in 2011 to 3.8 percent in 2012 — since 1999, when the rapid rise of Internet start-ups preceded a young worker migration, according to census data released Oct. 25.

As young adults are making big moves to test the job market in urban, high-tech metropolises, dense cities such as New York, San Francisco, Boston and Seattle are working to cater to single young adults looking for affordable spaces in prime locations.

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"Young singles that have been holed up at home are among the first to test the waters," said William H. Frey, a Brookings Institution demographer who reviewed the numbers. He pointed to the migration of young people — not tied down to a housing mortgage or loan payments — as a response to a recovering job market.

"This rise in mobility of young singles is just the tip of the iceberg," Frey said. "Other population groups — retirees, older professionals, families — will follow suit as soon as the job market and housing market return back to normal."

In October, an estimated 578,000 more people returned to the labor force than in September, which saw an additional 418,000 people — marking two months of strong growth, according to a survey conducted this month by the Labor Department.

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"I would expect more positions to become available, and I would also expect to see mobility to increase over the next few years," said Mark Mather, associate vice president at the Population Reference Bureau. He attributed the upswing in mobility to an emerging group of young people wanting to test the job market that is showing signs of improvement.

Taking the leap

Roughly 5.6 million Americans ages 25-34, or 13.6 percent, lived with their parents in 2011, a decrease from 14.2 percent during the previous year.

Upon graduating with an Ivy League degree in hotel administration and real estate from Cornell, Fogal had accepted a job offer in Las Vegas. When the company went bankrupt two months before he graduated, he returned home to begin a job hunt that would last for six months.

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Fogal said living in his parents' house had not affected his social life. "I lived in the basement of the house, which wasn't much different from my university life, in which I also lived alone."

When Fogal moved out of his parents' house to begin working as a marketing assistant, he found that some adjustments were still required to make the transition.

"I was surprised by the amount of money it takes to heat a house. Like blown away surprised," Fogal said. "It took me a few months to create the systems needed to maintain a house and pay all the bills in a timely fashion."

For 23-year-old Tuskegee University graduate Adrena Martin, moving to her own apartment meant paying her own bills, coming up with rent money, staying up on car maintenance and cooking meals.

"I'd do it all over again any day," Martin said. "Because with that comes privacy and independence and freedom and the motivation to develop as a person and work towards my goal of becoming an entrepreneur."

Martin hopes to quit her current job as a hotel waitress within the next year to carry out her dream of self-employment.

She recently started her own business — CreationZ From A Dove — which specializes in handmade jewelry and accessories. Running this on her own requires many sacrifices.

"Before my business, I would always be online shopping for my next outfit," Martin said. "Now that I have more responsibility I realize that I have to sacrifice some things."

Living on her own has allowed her to develop the ability to prioritize, take every experience as an opportunity, surround herself with positive people, act upon self motivation, be resourceful, network with others and build a strong work ethic.

"I am always working. After I get off of my job, I immediately get to work on my second job," Martin said. "If I want my business to be successful I have to put in the work it takes to get there."

God remains first and all else will fall in line, Martin said.

"The fact that I have my own set of responsibilities and financial obligations makes me work that much harder to be able to provide for myself," Martin said.

On their own?

Parents today are more involved in their students' lives than any previous generation, Marjorie Savage, author of the parenting book "You're on Your Own,"said. The communication methods available today make it so easy to be in touch with a student, she said. "It's free. It's cheap. And it's instantaneous."

Nearly 52 percent of young adults ages 18 to 29 reported having daily or almost daily contact with parents via text, phone or in person, according to a survey commissioned by Clark University in Worcester, Mass. Thirty-four percent said their parents were more involved in their life than they really wanted them to be.

Caroline Radaj, a recent journalism graduate from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wis., has been anxious to move out of her parent's house for five months now. What has been holding her back? A job that provides enough support living beyond her parents' basement.

"I'd be lying if I said it's not frustrating," Radaj, 22, said. "I find myself constantly angry and upset and thinking myself as a failure when I worked so hard for four years to get a degree that would allow me to live on my own."

Radaj commuted from her parents' house to Madison. "I'm waiting for my part-time job to turn into a full-time job," Madison said in October. "I've been told this will happen in November, but like anything, I can't be so sure, so I'm always looking for more opportunities."

Radaj has recently been offered a full-time position in January. As she begins her "mad apartment hunt," Radaj anticipates that moving out will require some adjustments.

"I have to live on a super strict budget because I am making a very basic minimum entry-level salary," Radaj said. She anticipates that shopping trips and midnight movie screenings may be cut to save money.

The young people who are in the most frequent contact with their parents are the least autonomous and least capable of regulating their own lives, psychology professor at Middlebury College Barbara Hofer and co-author Abigail Sullivan Moore found.

In their book "The iConnected Parent: Staying Close to Your Kids in College and Beyond while Letting Them Grow Up," Hofer and Moore wrote that self-regulating young adults are more satisfied with their social lives, professional careers and overall life experience. These students tend to go further in life than their parent-regulated peers.

Parents should avoid getting involved in unprecedented ways, such as excessive involvement in the ups and downs of a child's romantic or social life, getting involved in a child's ordinary conflicts by contacting roommates or friends, or expecting to hear from their child every day, Hofer and Moore wrote in their book.

Children should not be dependent upon their parents for any mundane tasks such as organizing an apartment, sorting laundry or boiling spaghetti, Hofer and Moore wrote.

"Be mindful of who is initiating communication: Let your child take the lead. If your child sounds annoyed when you call, back off," Hofer and Moore wrote. "Know how to recognize and respond to venting. Listen, but don’t rush to problem solve."

"This is my time to prove to (my parents) that I can do this," Martin said. "They have the privilege of watching their hard work as parents pay off."

Rachel Lowry is a reporter intern for the Deseret News. She has lived in London and is an English graduate from Brigham Young University. Contact her at rachel.lowry@gmail.com or visit www.rachellowry.blogspot.com.

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