Hidden in veterans’ better jobless rate is an entirely different reality for those who have served since Sept. 11, 2001.
Overall, military veterans in the United States have a lower unemployment rate than nonveterans. In October, veterans over the age of 18 had an unemployment rate of 4.5% compared with 5.4% for nonveterans. Since 2006, veterans have had an unemployment rate that was, on average, 0.7 percentage points lower than nonveterans.
But not all is rosy for veterans returning home, especially in recent years. In September 2008, the Labor Department began breaking out unemployment statistics by the period in which veterans served. And the rate for veterans who served in the military from September 2001 to present has been persistently elevated.
So the low unemployment rate from veterans results from the very low unemployment rates for veterans of the first Gulf War (at 2.8% in October) averaging out with the elevated unemployment for those in the second Gulf War era (with 7.2% unemployment.) The gap between the two eras has remained elevated for the past six years, when the data begin. The recent veterans have had unemployment rates that are 3.6 percentage points higher. This helps explain the calls from corporate CEOs and former military leaders to encourage the private sector to employ more veterans. Veterans of the most recent war are mostly younger than those who served in the 1990s and earlier, and young people always have higher unemployment rates. But a new Labor Department study this week shows that the young age of recent veterans does not fully explain their elevated unemployment rates.
The Labor Department data show that nonveterans age 18 to 24 had an unemployment rate of 14.3%. But for veterans of the same age, the rate was 21.4%. The gaps persist, for recent veterans, in every age group until those over 55. Even as the overall labor market continues to improve, the unemployment rate of veterans reveals an economic weakness in the country that is far from healed.
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