A Look at Veteran Unemployment Rates
You would think that obtaining unemployment information would be easier now that just about everything can be done online with a smartphone or tablet. I even assumed that there would be incredibly accurate data on Veteran unemployment, as more of our folks in uniform could be reached through email, online surveys, etc. The reality is that just about all of the official government collection of Veteran’s unemployment is done through two civilian surveys: the Community Population Survey and the American Community Survey.
According to the “Why Is Veteran Unemployment So High?” report, the Community Population Survey (CPS) is the one mainly used by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS). This survey is most commonly released to the media and public. It surveys 60,000 households for four months, stops for eight months, and then surveys them again for a final four months. The American Community Survey (ACS) is a larger, more annual survey completed every three to five years, surveying about 65,000 households.
Ultimately, official estimates for Veteran’s unemployment are derived from these two surveys. But are these numbers accurate? To be honest, there is truly no way of knowing. But there is some agreement that the Veteran’s unemployment is decreasing.
Post 9-11 Unemployment Rates
The government and most statisticians use September 11, 2001 as a base for compiling the most recent Veteran unemployment data. This helps separate previous Veterans from older wars from those who have fought more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan.
According to the Military Times, the post September 11, 2001 unemployment rate for Veterans is floating around 6.9%. Despite that number being on the higher end, the Veteran’s unemployment rate is much lower than during the Great Recession (2007–2009) depending on what research you find.
Unemployment rates peaked for young Veterans in 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, who monitor all official government data. Former soldiers aged 18 to 24 years old faced the highest unemployment in the past several years at 29.1%. In 2014, unemployment for Veterans who served in an active-duty role since 9/11 was only 7.2%.
Basing national statistics on the CPS and ACS, it looks as though more Veterans are entering the workforce. But is this because of the economy, improved transition for Veterans in to the civilian workforce, or simply coincidence.
Time Since Separation Argument
The “Why Is Veteran Unemployment So High?” report flatly states that “…specific hypothesis for chronically elevated levels of Veteran unemployment do not have much support in the available data. The report highlights five reasons for high Veteran unemployment:
- Poor health
- Employer discrimination
- Skills mismatch
- Job search
These hypothesis fail to show any significant trends. According to the report on Page 25, “…Veterans are more likely to be unemployed than non-Veterans because they are more likely to have recently separated from a job—namely, military service—and, therefore, are more likely to be in the process of finding a new job.”
The folks at Rand rightly believe that serving in the military is a job. Once someone leaves the military and becomes a civilian, they are changing careers, and it usually takes time and effort to change careers. This is officially called “time since separation.”
Accurate or not, it may be important to note that many Veterans may simply need time to find a new career. No is denying that those who served in active duty roles face difficulties assimilating to civilian life. But like any career change, moving jobs can just simply take some time.
Helping Veterans Succeed in a New Career
There are many great programs that help former military members transition to civilian life. National programs like the Veterans Opportunity to Work and Hire Heroes Act of 2011 (VOW Act) were created to help former military members with skills training. The VOW Act also created the Transition Assistance Program or TAP, which serves as a “crash course” to help assimilate in to civilian life. There are also countless numbers of veteran’s advocacy groups and organizations that do the legwork of working with Veterans.
At the end of the day, Veterans bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to any job. Skills like leadership, teamwork, and resourcefulness often separate former military members from civilian employees. Employers should continue to work with the state and federal government to boost employment opportunities for all Veterans.
Veteran Action Network helps Veterans get back on their feet by helping with initiatives like employment. Go here to donate today.