The number of people aged 20-24 working in retail has risen 24%, while the number of those in food service has shot up 57% during that time. Meanwhile, the number of teens working retail jobs has plunged 47%. And the shares of people 65 and over working in retail and food service are up 52% and 55%, respectively, over that period.
It's a twist that concerns economists. Because jobs in areas like restaurants and retail are lower-paying, those who start their adult careers in such industries may be doomed to a lifetime of lower wages. And closing off opportunities to younger people while leaving older ones stuck in place stifles economic mobility.
For Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the liberal Economic Policy Institute, the age shift signals workers have been left behind even as productivity has soared over the past few decades.