New Veteran Unemployment Stats are Promising, But Still Unacceptable

New Veteran Unemployment Stats are Promising

By Debbie Gregory.

Recently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released their Veteran unemployment rates for January, 2014. While the numbers are not alarmingly different than before, they are still unacceptable and need to be improved upon.
The overall unemployment rate for Veterans was at 5.6%. This is not a bad statistic. It is more than a point lower than the 7% national unemployment rate. And it is exactly 2 points below the Veteran unemployment rate for Jan 2013, which was 7.6%.  However, this well publicized statistic can be misleading.
When considering the current state of Veteran employment,  statistically including previous generations can be deceptive. While not diminishing their service, nor making light of the difficulties that previous generations have experienced when seeking employment, Desert Storm era and older generations of Veterans have already endured the hardships of establishing themselves into the ranks of civilian employment. A more accurate picture of Veteran unemployment can be attained by looking at the unemployment rates for Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) Veterans, who are currently in the vanguard of the struggle. GWOT Veterans, also known as Post-911 Veterans and Gulf War II Veterans, have had a much higher unemployment percentage than the overall Veteran total and the national average for the last several years.
For January, 2014, the unemployment percentage for GWOT Veterans was at 7.9%, a number which is simultaneously promising and unacceptable. The rate is promising in that it is almost 4 points better than the 11.7% that it was in January, 2013. This means that GWOT Veterans are beginning to find work. However, the statistic is still too high.
The 7.9% Veteran unemployment rate is still higher than the current national average of 7.0%. Why are Veterans consistently less desirable to hire than civilians who never served? Employers have closed the gap some, and their efforts should be applauded. But a 7.9% unemployment rate of current Veterans should be consideredunacceptable. Also, it should be made known that this rate is higher than December’s 7.3%.
There is one more element that should be considered when considering improvements found in Veteran unemployment data. What variables are causing the “improvements” in Veteran unemployment? Are we, as a nation, really improving Veteran Employment through government actions and hirers’ initiatives? Or are we seeing the first Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan start to accumulate material on their résumés that employers will recognize and hire them for? It might not be a coincidence that the better numbers coincide with the first few graduating classes of Post-9/11 GI Bill users.
We should not yet slow our efforts to recognize Veterans’ service as actual work experience. We should also continue to hire Veterans and reward businesses that do. In the coming years, the military will see a lot more of its members separating and entering the struggle to find civilian employment. Will we have done enough by then to ensure that they can find jobs and support their families?