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November 10, 2014

Veteran Unemployment Higher Than for Non-Vets

Posted 4 years 254 days ago by Sheila Ellian Lewis

As we prepare to honor our veterans, it’s a good time to take a look at who they are and whether they are fairly represented in our country’s labor pool. Earlier this year, the Department of Labor reported that the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. armed forces at any time since 2001—a group referred to as Gulf War-Era II veterans—dropped slightly in 2013 to 9 percent. While well above overall civilian unemployment levels that averaged 7.5 in 2013, the 2013 unemployment rate for veterans is down from 9.9 percent in 2012. The jobless rate for all veterans also decreased in 2013 to 6.6 percent.


2013 Highlights

  • In 2013, approximately 9 percent of the civilian non-institutional population age 18 and over were veterans, representing 21.4 million men and women.
  • As expected, American veterans are more likely to be men and also older than non-veterans.
  • Of the 722,000 unemployed veterans in 2013, 60 percent were age 45+; 35 percent were age 25 to 44; and 5 percent were age 18 to 24.
  • The unemployment of veterans with a service-connected disability was 6.2 percent, consistent with the rate for vets with no disability (6.6 percent).

Gulf War-Era II 

About 2.8 million of the nation’s veterans served during Gulf War-Era II, with women representing 20 percent. More than half of these vets are age 25 to 34. Unemployment figures for 2013 were 8.8 percent versus 7.5 percent for non-veteran males; and 9.6 percent for female vets versus 6.8 percent for non-veterans. About one-third of unemployed male veterans worked in management and professional occupations, a higher proportion than in any other major occupational group. Female veterans working in management and professional occupations topped 40 percent.


Gulf War-Era I

Consistent with Gulf War-Era II numbers, 19 percent of the 3.2 million vets who served during Gulf War-Era I (August 1990 to August 2001) were women. In 2013, the unemployment rates for both male and female Gulf War-Era I vets was lower than for Gulf War-Era II at 5.7 and 5.3 percent, respectively. These unemployment rates were not much different from their non-veteran counterparts.


Where Vets Live Affects Employment

Veterans have a better chance at finding jobs in certain parts of the country. In July, The Business Insider reported that veterans have the best shot at employment in states with a large military presence. California and Texas have many military bases, and veteran unemployment rates are lower than that of all states as a whole. These states have large numbers of active and retired military who are better equipped to accommodate returning vets. It’s a fact that veteran-owned businesses often hire fellow veterans at higher-than-average rates. For example, Virginia’s Knight Solutions, a leading national cemetery caretaker, is made up almost entirely of vets.


Vets also do better in states with lower populations of college graduates. Tony Lee, publisher of the job search portal CareerCast, says, “The biggest problem in the modern military is that the majority of veterans don’t have a college degree. Employers are still trying to figure out how to treat years of experience in the military if the vet only has a high school degree.”


Finally, not all states have jobs that require skills developed in the military. Telecommunications, engineering, and construction industries benefit most from experience gained in the military. While North (oil) and South Dakota (healthcare) may have booming economies, they don’t necessarily attract talented vets.


There are exceptions from the trends noted, but they are mostly in states with lower populations. Lee reports that things will look different in 2014. Legislation passed earlier this year has made it easier for disabled veterans (DVBE) to get access to contracting jobs, and that a healthy trucking industry will attract vets who have experience driving during military duty.


The Bottom Line

For all who own or run organizations, large and small, the idea of hiring veterans should be a high priority. It must become an active goal to ensure that those who serve and protect our nation have the best opportunity to earn a decent wage, care for their families, and live comfortably in their own country.


A Personal Soldier Story

Army Command Sergeant Major Mildred C. KellyIn early February, 2003, a small group of mourners, including me, braved a snowstorm to bury retired Army Command Sergeant Major Mildred C. Kelly in Section 67 of Arlington National Cemetery. She passed away after struggling with cancer. CSM Mildred C. Kelly was my aunt.


My aunt graduated from Knoxville College in Tennessee with a degree in chemistry in 1949. She briefly taught high school before joining the Army in 1950. While serving at the Pentagon in 1972, she became the first black female Sergeant Major in the army. She achieved another first two years later when she became the first female Command Sergeant Major at a major installation.


Constance Burns of the Army Center for Military History visited her in her hospital room days before she died. The two had become acquainted while organizing a conference on African Americans in the Korean War. Kelly was to appear on that panel in the spring discussing Black women's roles in the Korean War. "She was a great warrior," Burns said. "She loved to get women's stories out there. Even when she was going through all that stuff [cancer], she kept it to herself."


Retiring in 1976, my aunt remained active by serving on a multitude of boards and commissions including the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation, the Maryland Veterans Commission and the Veterans Advisory Board. She also decided that retirement wasn’t for her and accepted a position with the American Dental Association.


The transition into civilian life was hard for her, as was working in a position with less authority. She struggled with a culture that was far less formal than the one where she had spent 30 years, but true to form, she stuck it out and retired from there, too. She was one veteran among thousands who learn new ways to work and contribute to organizations with skills learned while serving our nation. Their commitment is real and their contributions are rich.


Say Thanks

Thank a vet on November 11, 2014, and every day if you’re so inclined. You’ll feel good about it and so will they.


At Ashton212, we include vets in our Inclusivity ChoiceTM program that provides our clients with access to the broadest possible range of consulting talent.

Tags: armed forces army Mildred Kelly veterans veterans day

Categories: categoryWorkforce categoryDiversity & Inclusion

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