Recent Vets’ Jobless Rate Plunges To 5.8%, Best Ever
by: Troops to Trades
March 25, 2016
WASHINGTON — Last year’s annual unemployment rate for the latest generation of veterans was the lowest ever recorded by far, government statistics indicate.
Post-9/11 veterans charted an average unemployment rate of 5.8% for 2014, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report released Tuesday, down significantly from the 7.2% posted the previous year.
Not only is the annual rate for 2015 significantly lower than any other annual rate in the group’s history, it’s also lower than all but a few of the pre-2015 monthly unemployment rates, which are volatile and prone to dramatic increases and decreases.
Employment experts attributed the gains to an improving economy, combined with an intense focus on the issue from both the public and private sectors.
“That doesn’t mean it’s time for a victory lap or anything like that,” said Ryan Gallucci, Veterans of Foreign Wars deputy director for national veterans service.
The unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans has been on a wild ride since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began to track it in September 2008.
Starting with a 7.5% average that year, post-9/11 veterans’ unemployment climbed to double digits from 2009 to 2011 as the recession deflated the national economy. Several jobs reports for individual months climbed into the teens in those years, which charted annual unemployment rates of 10.2%, 11.6% and 12.0%, respectively, for post-9/11 vets.
Then 2012 declined to less than 10%, followed by a further drop in 2013. The 2014 rate of 7.2% — though 2015’s rate is far below it — was itself a record low when it came out last year.
Indeed, 2015 was a year of records for post-9/11 veteran unemployment in many ways. New record lows were set in the monthly jobs reports three times that year, and six of the eight monthly reports from May until the end of the year charted either the lowest or the second lowest unemployment rates ever recorded at the time they came out.
Unemployment rates for post-9/11 veterans remain slightly higher than those of nonveterans, who charted a 5.2% rate in 2015, down from 6% in 2014.
For veterans of all generations, the unemployment rate fell to 4.6% in 2015, down from the 2014 rate of 5.3%.
“Some of the improvement in the unemployment rate for veterans across the board has happened somewhat in parallel with the overall reduction in our nation’s unemployment numbers over the last five to six years,” Jack Norton, a spokesman for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes program, said in an emailed statement. “At the same time though, through much of our effort, businesses of all sizes have been reminded of the value of veterans as employees and have strengthened their veteran hiring programs as a result.”
Hiring Our Heroes and several other veterans-hiring groups and initiatives formed in the darker days of vet employment. VFW’s Gallucci acknowledged the role of such groups in the collapsing vet unemployment rates and also credited some government efforts.
“We attribute it to improvements in the transition assistance program and improvement in the job market generally,” he said.
Still, he identified transition assistance as a program that has room for improvement, adding that its curriculum should be easily accessible to vets after they leave the military and that the federal government needs to better track how veterans do in the job market.
“It needs to be a sustained mission of the military, the way that recruitment and retention is a sustained mission of the military,” he said.
And now that the unemployment rate is decreasing dramatically, the focus needs to shift to jobs with good pay and a chance for advancement, according to a statement from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
“Sustainable change will require not just jobs but investments in long-term careers for this next generation of leaders,” the veterans group said.
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