For Veterans, Getting The Job Is Just The Start


August 4, 2016
By Don Esmond

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While many Americans are still struggling to recover from the Great Recession, the good news is that the nation’s unemployment rate is now at its lowest point in eight years. But there’s even better news. Thanks to the strenuous efforts of veterans’ activists and business leaders, those who served our nation are beginning to share in the economic recovery. Unemployment among these veterans is now lower than at any time since the U.S. Labor Department began tracking it in 2008.

The annual unemployment rate among post-9/11 veterans ballooned from 7.5 percent that year to 12.0 percent in image of veteran2011. Although the unemployment rate for nonveterans also climbed, the rate for our veterans rose higher and faster. Unemployment among post-9/11 veterans declined each year through 2015, but failed to catch up with nonveterans. This downward trend has continued this year and, thanks to those strenuous efforts I mentioned, the Labor Department reported that in May the rate for veterans had fallen to approximately 4.0 percent – below even the overall rate for all Americans.

That’s great news, and well worth oo-rahs all around.  But before we sprain an arm patting ourselves on the back, we need to realize that the job of ending joblessness among our veterans isn’t over. To borrow a line from Winston Churchill, “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”  By that I mean, we have made significant progress in helping veterans find jobs. But the battle is not over. In many ways, the fight has just begun.

We have turned a corner on unemployment among the 3.6 million Americans who have served in uniform since the September 11th attacks. However, hundreds of thousands of these veterans are still looking for work, with veterans under 25 and 25-34 trailing all other age groups. In addition, the downsizing of the nation’s armed forces is expected to add about one million transitioning service members to this pool of jobseekers over the next five years.

Our veterans fought for us. Now all of us need to fight for them.

One of the ways in which the unemployment gap has been shrunk is the Hiring Our Heroes program, launched by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation five years ago. As chair of the Hiring Our Heroes’ Veterans Employment Advisory Council, I know first-hand the programs, people and progress of this valuable initiative.

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