This week the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, released its employment report of veterans for 2013. According to BLS, unemployment among all veterans in 2013 was 6.6 percent – nearly one percentage point lower than the national average. Unemployment among Post-9/11 era veterans also dropped to 9 percent, but remains significantly higher than civilian unemployment.
To read the full report, click here.
According to BLS, nearly 2.8 million veterans have served since 9/11 – a number that does not include those who continue to serve on active duty. While combat operations have ceased in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan and the Global War on Terror have yet to die down. The influx of Post-9/11 veterans into the civilian workforce has presented a new set of challenges that require unique solutions in an evolving economy and social environment, and the VFW knows that as the military draws down its active duty force, more veterans will need transitional resources to find quality civilian careers.
The unemployment rate among veterans has steadily dropped from previous years’ highs. The VFW believes that this continuous drop is the result of significant new strategies to responsibly transition veterans into the civilian job market and encourage employers to hire, retain and promote veterans, such as the VOW to Hire Heroes Act.
However, the BLS numbers indicate that Post-9/11 veterans continue to face challenges in finding jobs. Many veterans possess skills they have learned while serving in the military, and those should come in handy to a variety of career fields. Unfortunately, many civilian licensing and credentialing bodies still struggle to correlate military training to civilian professional standards.
To combat this, the VFW is working diligently with the Department of Defense and Congress to expose service members to civilian licensing and credentialing opportunities while still in uniform. The VFW is also encouraging states to develop better ways to assess military training and experience when considering military-trained professionals for civilian licensure in industries like transportation, health care and law enforcement.
The VFW also believes that gaps in education are putting younger veterans at a disadvantage compared to their non-veteran peers. The VFW knows that the Post-9/11 GI Bill can help to remedy this. As more and more veterans leave the military, the VFW encourages them to tap into these earned education benefits to acquire the necessary skills to compete in the job market.
Traditionally, veterans perform better than non-veterans in the economy. As the conflicts draw down and more veterans have access to higher education and career readiness programs, the VFW believes that Post-9/11 era veterans will also surpass their civilian peers.
Unfortunately, the BLS numbers indicate that gender may also create unique challenges when veterans seek employment. According to BLS, female Post/911 veterans still face significantly higher unemployment that their male counterparts. The Department of Labor has expressed concerns that numbers may reflect certain employer biases and stereotypes when seeking to hire veterans, which is why Labor commissioned a Women Veterans Employment Initiative in 2013. This initiative combines resources from the department’s Veterans Employment and Training Service and the Women’s Bureau to identify and address the unique employment challenges of female veterans. The latest BLS numbers indicate that the situation has improved significantly for female veterans, but the VFW believes that the disparity in employment among male and female veterans remains unacceptable.
As of 2013, nearly 30 percent of Post-9/11 veterans reporting having service-connected disabilities ranging from post-traumatic stress to missing limbs. Fortunately, BLS reported a lower unemployment rate among service-connected Post-9/11 veterans – a figure which the VFW finds encouraging. However, veterans rated at 60 percent or higher had a lower participation rate in the workforce. To the VFW, this means that more veterans must have access to quality rehabilitative programs like VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program and Labor’s Disabled Veterans Outreach Program specialists.
The statistics regarding veteran employment offer glimpses of hope, but also point to persistent gaps. The VFW believes that VA and Labor career programs have helped many veterans find quality careers after military services. However, problems remain in transparency, information and resource access, retention and career development. For example, enforcement of the Uniformed Servicemembers Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, or USERRA, remains problematic since many veterans and their employers do not fully understand their rights and responsibilities under the law.
Today’s job market reflects changes in technology, consumer demographics, and a demand for experience due to the ever-changing economy. It remains crucial that employers seek the most effective workforce to compete, and the VFW believes that veteran candidates can bring immeasurable skills into any workplace. Your VFW will continue to advocate for improved employment policies and resources for veterans. Check back regularly for updates.