And the Generation Hardest Hit by the Recession Is...

No age group is immune to the fever of downsizing and and layoffs that has swept the country over the last few years, but the generation that is hardest hit will probably surprise you. Despite all the news you hear about older, more experienced, more expensive workers being let go, the generation suffering the most job losses is the Millennial generation, or those who have entered the work place since 1999, give or take a few years.

Regardless of the hue and cry over all the jobs going to the younger, more tech-savvy and cheaper workers, they're the ones who most likely will be the first to go. While unemployment rates are rising for everyone, in the past year, the rates for workers ages 25-34 has jumped from 4.9 percent to 9.6 percent. For Baby Boomers, especially those over age 55, the unemployment rate has risen from 3.3 percent to 6.2 percent over the same period of time.

Do the math, and you find unemployment rates for younger workers have increased 4.7 percentage points, while unemployment rates for older workers have only risen 2.9 percentage points. Why? It goes on beyond the last-hired, first-fired syndrome. It seems that many employers are terrified of age-related lawsuits.

If you thought laws against age discrimination protect everyone, you would be, in a word, wrong. The Age Discrimination Employment Act that was passed in 1967 and still holds, only protects, "individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age." Some states have passed additional, more all-encompassing age discrimination laws, but legally, those over 40 are far better protected.

And there isn't much that can be done to change that. Think about it -- if younger workers attempt to pass legislation that would protect them as well, the more numerous Baby Boomers and older members of Generation X would hardly be sympathetic and would be very unlikely to pass it.

These days, however, no matter what your age, it's every man or woman for him or herself. Jobs are not coming back as rapidly as everyone hoped, so if you do have a job, it's imperative to make yourself indispensable -- there are plenty of other people waiting in the wings to snatch up your position. No matter if you're 26 or 60, it's a good idea to make yourself indispensable to your employer: arrive at work earlier, stay a little later, put off that vacation for another six months, volunteer for unpopular duties, and/or be proactive in coming up with ideas that can improve your company's bottom line. Now is not the time to become paralyzed by what you perceive as the inevitable.

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