Millennial Unemployment is the Real-Life 'Hunger Games'

Suzanne Collins’ popular Hunger Games trilogy of books tells the story of a dystopian future where adolescents must fight to the death in a televised gladiatorial combat. But for those aged 18-30, the so-called millennials hunting for a job, the plot of Collins’ novels may seem all too real.

Landing employment may seem like a cutthroat proposition for millennials, but the reality is, the going doesn’t get much easier once they get a job. The fact of the matter is, not only do millennials have it worse than the rest of the broader population when it comes to the job hunt, they also have a tougher road once they are actually hired.

In January, the unemployment rate of millennials spiked to 13.1 percent, a sharp increase from the November 2012 (10.9%) and December 2012 (11.5% rates). Compare this to an overall unemployment rate of 7.9%, and the job market suddenly looks more competitive for potential younger employees (who we may as well be calling Tributes at this point).

However, recent college graduates seemed to demonstrate an advantage in landing employment, not just over fellow millennials but also over the broader job market as a whole. Their unemployment rate was 6.8 percent, well below both the millennial and overall averages.

But despite the lower rate of unemployment, college graduates don’t have it that easy. A recent poll conducted by Accenture that interviewed 1,050 workers who completed school in the past two years and 1,010 who will receive or have received their degree this year found that just 53% of grads found full-time employment in their field of study.

For those who found jobs, there is also a gap in perceived and actual salary. Fifteen percent of this year’s graduates believe they will earn less than $25,000 annually when in reality, roughly a third will earn that amount or less.

And that college degree might not even be enough. The Accenture poll found that more than 40% of recent college graduates are either underemployed or need more career training.

However, there is a silver lining — for those millennials who can land a job, that is. The Class of 2013 is projected to have an average annual starting salary that is 5.3% higher than their counterparts in the class of 2012. This year’s class of college grads is expected to earn an average of $44,928 annually.

Unfortunately, that pay hike only happens if you get the job. Employers are expected to only hire 2.1% more new college graduates from the class of 2013 than the class of 2012, which is well below the 13% hiring increase projected by the National Association of Colleges and Employers last fall.

Unfortunately, job in hand or not, it isn’t getting any better for the millennial generation. A 2009 Yale University study found students who graduate in a recession earn a 10 percent lower wage after a decade of work than they otherwise would have earned in a healthy economy.

Collins’ trilogy may be over, but the story of many millennials starting their careers is just beginning. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look as if there will be a happy ending to this tale.