Veterans face rising unemployment in the midst of the economic recession.
At a time when Americans are in the midst of an economic recession and high unemployment, one group is suffering most of all – military veterans. While the situation is starting to improve for many others, the outlook for Gulf War II veterans (those who have been on active duty since 2001) is actually getting worse.
Veterans currently face an unemployment rate of 12.1 percent, compared to a national average of 9 percent. For 18-24 year olds, the rate is 30.4 percent – an 18 percent increase since October 2010 – and black veterans of the same age face a staggering 48%. 18-24 year old non-veterans, on the other hand, have actually seen an improvement in their unemployment rate – 15.3 percent, up from 16.9 percent the previous year.
Younger veterans face a worse unemployment situation than those 35 years old and up, and the gap between the age groups’ rates has grown since 2008. Given the struggling economy, this indicates that younger veterans will increasingly fall behind their non-veteran peers.
Several factors are involved in this gap between younger veterans and non-veterans. Younger veterans have typically joined the service right after high school, causing them to miss out on education and work experience that non-veterans take advantage of. Many veterans also hail from rural or economically disadvantaged areas; while joining the service provided them a better financial option than they may have had at home, it leaves them with even fewer options when they return to these areas after overseas tours. The competitive nature of the current job market punishes those who have been out of work the longest, and many employers do not consider military service “workplace” experience.
Perhaps the biggest factor is job-related skills; the greatest amount of current hiring is in industries requiring specialized education, while the least job growth is in blue-collar professions. Even veterans with skills that should translate to the workplace, such as IT or electronics, may not have the specialized training required by employers, such as software companies or internet startups. Military jobs that have a direct civilian counterpart, such as truck drivers or medics, may still require licensing and certification that veterans will not have earned while serving.
Recent draw-downs of overseas troops and federal budget cuts are bringing more and more service members back home and into this dire situation. In order to keep up with their civilian peers, younger veterans must focus on earning higher education, training, and certifications that will provide them the specialized skills they need to succeed in today’s workforce. Employers must also make it a priority to hire greater numbers of current and former service members. Those who have served our country deserve the same opportunities as everyone else. They fight for our freedom – isn’t that worth a helping hand?