Inside the Numbers of Veteran Unemployment

Inside the Numbers

By Debbie Gregory.

When looking at the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly Employment Situation Report for February 2014, we see that the unemployment rate for Veterans has changed little, if any, over the past year. Many economists and Veteran advocates evaluate monthly reports, and every few weeks, either praise or blame the powers that be for the monthly dips and spikes in Veteran unemployment. For example, it’s common to see a decrease in Veteran unemployment from November through January, and then a rise again in February due to seasonal employment for the holidays. So while many observers cheered in December and lowered their brows again in February, they were perhaps looking at the wrong set of data.

It is best to look at the yearly changes, in that same report. Seeing how February 2014’s statistics measured up against February 2013’s numbers can give everyone a more accurate gauge of the real picture, rather than judging against the previous month.

In the February, 2014 report, we see that the overall Veteran employment only lowered .06% from the previous year, while the national unemployment rate for non-Veterans lowered a full 1%.

The most scrutinized data is the unemployment rate for Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, referred to in the reports as “Gulf War II” Veterans. The numbers for Gulf War II Veterans are important because these are the Veterans that are currently transitioning out of the military. This statistic remains the highest for unemployment at 9.2% and remains the most stagnant, only lowering .02% since February, 2013 despite federal, state, local, and private campaigns.

Included in the Gulf War II numbers is the steady unemployment rate for Veteran men. Male Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans saw 9.0% unemployment for February, 2013 and February, 2014. This lack of change paints an unfortunate, albeit accurate, picture of the lack of change affected on our largest demographic of transitioning Gulf War II Veterans.  By comparison, non-Veterans in the same demographic saw an unemployment decrease of .08% over the year.

By contrast, female Gulf War II Veterans saw a decrease of 1.7% from 11.6% in February, 2013 to 9.9% in February 2014. While still more than three points higher than their non-Veteran peers (6.2% unemployment), the non-Veterans only decreased by 1.1% from February, 2013. So female Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan appear to be gaining ground.

As more Gulf War II Veterans earn degrees, licenses and certificates through their education benefits, we will hopefully see a major decline in Veteran unemployment, especially in the Gulf War II demographic. But for now, Veteran unemployment remains a serious concern– especially for Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.