Veterans Unemployment Declines As Companies Make Good On Promise

As America honors its military veterans today, there is encouraging news on the jobs front: The unemployment rate for the nation’s veterans has declined sharply in the year since the last Veterans Day.

Thanks to a nationwide focus on hiring veterans, and especially younger veterans who served in the post 9/11 military, unemployment for all veterans went from 6.9% in October 2013 to 4.5% last month. The national unemployment rate dropped 1.4 percentage points to 5.4%. (All percentages are non-seasonally adjusted.)

Contributing to the sharp decline was a project launched three years ago by JPMorgan Chase and 10 other large employers. As its name implies, the 100,000 Jobs Mission committed to hiring 100,000 veterans by the end of 2020. Now, with more than 170 companies participating, the project has employed more than 190,000 former military.

A RAND report on the project, commissioned by Chase, found companies have risen to the hiring challenge, using a variety of methods to source veterans. Among the more successful is reaching servicemen and women before they leave the military, by working with federal agencies such as Veterans Employment Center and SkillBridge.

The RAND report pointed out that the success of veteran recruitment needs to be augmented by performance and retention metrics. Companies “have not dedicated as many resources to gathering evidence of veteran employee performance and retention.”

RAND researchers also found employers have difficulty in understanding military-specific skills, a problem that can be eased by using recruiters with military experience. These individuals tend to be the most successful at placing veterans, the report notes.

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The difficulty in translating military skills for a civilian job may explain why so many veterans feel underemployed. A University of Phoenix survey released yesterday says 42% of working veterans say they are doing jobs that don’t make full use of their skills.

Veteran unemployment Oct 2014“Service members cultivate skills in the military that are invaluable to civilian employers,” said University of Phoenix Military Relations Vice President and Ret. Army Colonel Garland Williams. “Veterans bring diverse experience to the workplace, but may not know how to specifically market the skills they gained in the military for civilian jobs, and employers may not instinctively know how the skills translate”

Part of the problem lies with the veterans themselves. Only a third said they developed a transition plan while still on active duty. Once discharged, 55% of veterans find connecting with hiring managers among their biggest challenges; 57% said finding the right job was difficult.

With the good news about the declining unemployment rate for veterans, comes some caveats. Not all veterans are sharing equally in the improving jobs picture:

  • Women veterans generally have a higher unemployment rate than do male vets;
  • At 7.2%, veterans who served in Gulf War Era-II (post 9/11) have the highest unemployment rate among veterans — 6.2% for men and 11.2% for women;
  • Among those Gulf War II vets, those 20-24 have an unemployment rate of 7.3%, well below the nation rate for of 10.1 for non-vets of a similar age. However, as the age break downs get older, the unemployment rate increases. Veterans of that war who are 40-44 have an unemployment rate of 10.5%, well above the non-vet rate for that group of 4.3%.

John Zappe is the editor of and a contributing editor of John was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. He developed and managed online newspaper employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Before joining ERE Media in 2006, John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Besides writing for ERE, John consults with staffing firms and employment agencies, providing content and managing their social media programs. He also works with organizations and businesses to assist with audience development and marketing. In his spare time  he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility and obedience competitions.

You can contact him here.


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