Hard-Hit Job Sectors Hurt OEF/OIF Employment
Posted by Moran Banai on June 7
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the unemployment rate for Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans’ increased from 10.9 percent in April to 12.1 percent in May, leaving 232,000 veterans unemployed. The national unemployment rate, meanwhile, increased from 9.0 to 9.1 percent. These numbers show that while job growth slowed for all Americans, OEF/OIF veterans continue to be particularly hard hit.
A Congressional Joint Economic Committee (JEC) report released for Memorial Day found that one of the reasons for the high rate of OEF/OIF-era veterans’ unemployment – the highest for any generation of veterans – is the industries in which today’s newest veterans work. According to the report, OEF/OIF-era veterans were more likely to be employed in industries that suffered greater job losses during 2008-2009 and are taking longer to recover. For example, more than 30 percent of this generation of veterans works in federal, state or local government – all sectors that are now facing substantial belt-tightening. OEF/OIF-era veterans were less likely to be employed in fields, like education and health services, which were not hit as hard by the recession and rebounded more quickly.
May’s numbers reflected some of these concerns. Professional and business services added 44,000 jobs, and other sectors with high OEF/OIF participation, like construction, mining, transportation and utilities added an additional few thousand jobs. Manufacturing and information, however, both shed jobs. And local governments, which accounted for 8.7 percent of OEF/OIF-era veteran employment in 2010, have lost 446,000 jobs since September 2008. OEF/OIF veterans’ concentration in these hard-hit fields helps explain the high rate of unemployment, but also points to possible new directions for employment assistance for veterans focused on helping them enter new fields of work.
Just like today’s unemployment numbers, the report highlights critical challenges that OEF/OIF veterans face when it comes to finding jobs. It also demonstrates Congress’s interest in helping to mitigate these challenges. The introduction of S. 951, the Hiring Heroes Act of 2011, by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), chair of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, is a step in the right direction. Among other provisions, the bill would make participation in the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), which helps service members transition into the civilian world, mandatory. In the House, Representative Jeff Miller (R-FL), chair of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, set a goal of finding jobs for 400,000 veterans at a hearing on Wednesday. And H.R. 1540, the National Defense Authorization Act, which passed the House last week, includes a provision to create apprenticeship programs to prepare separating service members for the civilian job market. These are important steps and IAVA will work closely with both the House and Senate to try to reduce the high level of unemployment among OEF/OIF-era veterans.
To learn more about IAVA’s top policy priorities this year and how all Americans can help end veterans unemployment, read IAVA’s 2011 Policy Agenda.
For a deeper look at veterans’ employment issues, visit our Combat to Career headquarters and read IAVA’s Issue Report Careers After Combat: Employment and Education Challenges for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans
Moran Banai is IAVA’s Senior Research Associate in Washington, DC, where she leads the efforts of IAVA’s research team. She has a BA from Brown University and Master in International Affairs from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.
IAVA's Ben Weiss contributed research and writing.
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