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Job market for vets is promising, though far from perfect

Jul. 10, 2013 - 11:56AM   |  
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The job market for veterans “is brighter than it has been,” but the government still needs to concentrate on improving basic job-hunting knowledge and translating military-learned skills into civilian jobs, the vice chairwoman of the Joint Economic Committee said Wednesday.

“There are signs that actions taken at the federal, state and local levels are helping,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., the Senate leader of the joint congressional committee.

Friday’s employment situation report for June from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found the unemployment rate for veterans is 6.3 percent and the rate for verterans of the Post-9/11 era is 7.2 percent. Both are lower than the national unemployment rate of 7.6 percent.

But Klobuchar said that isn’t good enough. “We need to do more to ensure that veterans can move quickly into good jobs after serving our country,” she said. “When we look at employment industry by industry, it is clear that the recession had a larger impact on many industries that employ a high share of veterans, and this has made it more difficult for recent veterans to find jobs.

“Industries in which veterans often find work, such as manufacturing and construction, were among those hardest hit during the recession,” she said. “At the same time, recent veterans are under-represented in fast-growing sectors of the economy, including leisure and hospitality and education and health services.”

A Joint Economic Committee report also shows significant regional differences in the veterans’ unemployment rate.

In 2012, the overall jobless rate for veterans of all generations was 7 percent, but the average ranged from a high of 10 percent in New Jersey to a low of 2.1 percent in North Dakota.

For Post-9/11-era veterans, the unemployment rate in 2012 averaged 9.9 percent. It was lowest in Colorado, at 2.1 percent, but was also low in Connecticut, at 2.2 percent, and Nebraska, at 2.8 percent. It was highest in Massachusetts, at 23.4 percent, as well as in Nevada, at 22.6 percent, and in Tennessee, at 20.7 percent.

“The general condition of our economy affects the level of employment among veterans as much if not more than specific programs designed to help veterans find jobs,” said Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn., also a member of the joint committee. The overall trend in veterans’ employment follows the trends for the entire working-age population, he said.

Ryan Gallucci of Veterans of Foreign Wars shares Klobuchar’s view that it is not time to declare victory over veterans unemployment because the jobless rate for veterans under age 24 and for National Guard and reserve members remains high.

For young veterans, the jobless rate in June was 20.5 percent, according to the Labor Department’s most recent employment situation report. For National Guard and reserve members, the unemployment rate “is around 25 percent,” Gallucci said.

“This indicates persistent gaps for members of the Guard and reserve in military skill transferability and civilian skill attainment,” he said.

The Joint Economic Committee report suggests tax credits for private-sector businesses would be one way to “incentivize” those business to hire veterans hiring veterans.

But Gallucci isn’t sure. The VFW is “concerned that the veteran-hiring tax credits are too difficult for businesses to use, which is why the program has also been underutilized,” he said.

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