This map and comment posted by Strati Georgopoulos recently showed up in my LinkedIn feed and got me all fired up.

“Millennials came of age during a tough economic time: Student debt has reached an all-time high, and the job market is more competitive than ever. As a result, young people today aren’t earning as much money as their parents did when they were young. The median annual income for employed millennials was taken from Minnesota Population Center’s 2014 American Community Survey and Pew Research Center’s definition of millennials: Americans born between 1981-1997. The medians ranged from a low of $18,000 per year in Montana to a high of $43,000 in the District of Columbia.”

I commented “This is really very sad. Often people refer to “Millennials” and you might automatically envision a recent college graduate. Someone born in 1981 is now 34+ years old. 34–in their prime earning years! This chart really shows median incomes for AMERICANS not just stereotypical millennials. That’s a problem. College may not be the best choice for our high school kids. The biggest complaint I hear from business owners “lack of skilled labor”. Welders earn $55k, carpenters $42K, construction manager $71k. Consider what path you’d recommend to your student. What advice would you give?”

Later, I got to thinking more about it. Folks $20,000/year in Ohio is $384/week! If they’re working 40/hours, that’s under $10/hour. No wonder they live at home with parents. Can you blame them?

Who can forget “Living in a Van Down by the River!”

The fact is that better-paying jobs are available they just may not be pretty. One of our favorite family shows is “Dirty Jobs” on the Discovery Channel. (I may even have a big time crush on Mike Rowe…) Mike points out “Back in 2009, 12 million people were out of work. Most Americans assumed that could be fixed with 12 million new jobs. Thus, “job creation” became headline news. But then, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics quietly announced that companies were struggling to fill 2.1 million skilled positions…. Now, eight years later, unemployment is down, interest rates are under control, and inflation is in check. But the overall labor participation rate is very low, and the skills gap is wider than ever. In fact, the latest numbers are out, and they are astonishing. According to the Department of Labor, America now has 5.6 million job openings.”

Here are some of the median salaries examples in some of the most needed roles. Of course, with experience and management skills, employees can earn much more. Become the boss and own your own company, the income is limitless.

Concrete finisher $40k | Painters and Drywall hangers $46k | Mason $39k | Electrician $58k | General Contractor $94k | US Bureau of labor and statistics

Builders Association of Greater Indianapolis (BAGI) is tired of waiting for that skills gap to close. The need is so big, they’re taking their message directly to high school kids. Volunteers comprised of industry professionals (builders, remodelers, plumbers, technicians) head out to local school career fairs and set up tables to talk to students about jobs needed right now in the field and income potential. Watch their news coverage

And that’s just in the remodeling world, how about other skilled trades? 10 Best-Paid skilled labor jobs

As Mike Rowe pointed out, “Don’t let anyone tell you opportunity is dead in America”

Contributed by Heather Craaybeek Kuth.

Median Income Map source:

Chris Farley Image source:

Living at Home Chart source: