Alarming Trend in Veteran Unemployment Continues
Posted by Kate O'Gorman on April 6
This morning, the BLS released job numbers for the month of March. A reported unemployment rate of 10.3 percent for Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans suggests that the economic situation for veterans may be bleaker than previously thought. This report raises more questions than answers, and IAVA’s recently released member survey offers some deeper insight.
One of the main findings of IAVA’s survey is that our members’ unemployment rate was 16.7 percent in January. That is almost five percentage points higher than the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) 2011 average rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans (12.1 percent), putting potentially more than 100,000 additional veterans out of work.
There are some critical differences between IAVA’s and BLS’s monthly sample that might help explain the gap. Our respondents were only veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, while BLS surveys all veterans who served after September 2001. Less than half of the BLS monthly sample served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Bureau only measures the unemployment rate of strictly Iraq and Afghanistan veterans once a year.
Not only did we identify a higher unemployment rate - we were also able to break down unemployment by categories including age, gender and enlisted v. officers. We found that among our members, 20 to 24 year olds had the highest unemployment rate (35.7 percent), followed by those aged 25 to 29 (22 percent). Women had a higher unemployment rate (21.1 percent) than men (15.5 percent) and enlisted members had an unemployment rate almost 10 percentage points higher than officers.
These findings begin to paint a fuller picture of Iraq and Afghanistan veteran unemployment, and strongly point to the importance of education for employment. In fact, in 2011 the average unemployment rate for Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans with a high school diploma was 16.4, compared to 6.3 for new vets with any college level education. Younger Americans across the board were more likely to be unemployed than older Americans in 2011, although the national 18-24 year old average rate was 16.3 percent, compared to 35.7 percent among our youngest veterans. College degrees may once again account for part of this difference, since many young veterans are at least four years behind their non-veteran counterparts in getting a college degree.
Overall, our numbers show that Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are struggling to translate their skills to find careers, even as the employment situation improves nationally. We still have many questions; for example, why do female veterans have a higher unemployment rate than male counterparts? We will continue to assess our survey’s findings and share further insights into unemployment and other issues critical in the coming months.
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