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Post-9/11 veterans employment improves but still lags civilian rate

Mar. 20, 2014 - 04:04PM   |  
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Employment for the latest generation of veterans improved in 2013 but still lags well behind that of civilians, according to a new government report.

The unemployment rate for post-9/11 vets was 9 percent in 2013, down from 9.9 percent in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ annual veteran employment report, released March 20. But even with that nearly 10 percent decrease, the post-9/11 vet unemployment rate gained little ground on the 2013 nonveteran rate of 7.2 percent.

Much like the report itself, reaction was mixed.

“This report shows that the private and public sectors are making progress on veterans’ employment. But much more needs to be done,” Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said in a statement.

Derek Bennett, chief of staff for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, took a dimmer view, calling himself a “cautious pessimist” about the report.

“Veteran unemployment is far too high,” Bennett said. “A decrease of 0.9 percent is not acceptable.”

While Bennett said he’s glad to see the number moving downward, he added that since vets are a “screened labor force,” accepted and trained by the military, their unemployment rate should be lower than the civilian rate, not higher.

Vet hiring has been a popular cause in recent years, with private companies, nonprofit groups and the government spawning many high-profile efforts to help vets find jobs.

Bennett called for more transparency from such organizations to ensure they follow through on their commitments.

The overall unemployment rate for all generations of vets continued to better the civilian nonveteran rate, improving from 7 percent in 2012 to 6.6 percent in 2013.

But the picture was much bleaker for the youngest veterans. Post-9/11 vets between 25 and 34 years old posted a 9.5 percent unemployment rate. Nonvets in the same age range were at 7.3 percent.

Dan Goldenberg, executive director of the Call of Duty Endowment, a nonprofit created to help fund vet hiring groups, expressed particular concern about the unemployment rate for the youngest post-9/11 vets, ages 18 to 24, which actually rose from 20.4 percent in 2012 to 21.4 percent in 2013. For nonvets in this age group, the unemployment rate was 14.3 percent in 2013.

“It’s certainly not good news,” Goldenberg said. “We’re talking about 50 percent worse than their civilian counterparts.”

This age group is particularly likely to be in school, rather than the civilian job market, so the sample size for the data is small and can fluctuate.

Other findings in the report:

■ Female post-9/11 vets have a 9.6 percent unemployment rate, compared to 6.8 percent for female nonvets. Among men, post-9/11 vets were at 8.8 percent unemployment, nonvets at 7.5 percent.

■ Michigan and New Jersey had the worst vet unemployment rates — both more than 10 percent — while five states boasted vet unemployment rates below 4 percent: Delaware, Iowa, North Dakota, Vermont and Virginia.

■ Some 28 percent of employed post-9/11 vets had public-sector jobs, while only 14 percent of employed nonvets could say the same. For post-9/11 vets and nonvets alike, management and professional occupations were the most common job types.

Ryan Gallucci, deputy legislative director for Veterans of Foreign Wars, said an important key to bringing down the unemployment rate for veterans is ensuring that they get credit in the civilian world for training they received in the military and that they can use GI Bill benefits to obtain the training they lack.

“The hope is that over time, as the conflicts draw down and more veterans have the opportunity to use their education benefits, that this will even out,“ he said.

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