Jobs report tells two stories about veteran unemployment
Posted by Maura McCarthy on January 4
Thanks to national efforts to fight veteran unemployment, we’ve made a dent in lowering the veteran unemployment rate. Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released data showing that the annual average unemployment rate for post-9/11 vets decreased from 12.1 percent in 2011 to 9.9 percent in 2012—the lowest it’s been since 2008.
More work is needed, though. The latest jobs report shows that veterans faced higher unemployment rates last month than in November. Post-9/11 veteran unemployment rose slightly from 10 percent in November to 10.8 percent in December. The unemployment rate for veterans from all generations rate ticked up from 6.6 percent in November to 7 percent in December. Meanwhile, the national unemployment average for all Americans remained steady in December and November at 7.8 percent. In anticipation of the withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014 and a smaller military force in the coming years, it has never been more important to ensure that our veterans are prepared to transition to the civilian workforce.
In the final days of the 112th Congress, America’s lawmakers stepped up and passed legislation that will work to combat the systemic challenges that contribute to the high levels of unemployment facing Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
Billions of dollars are invested in training service members to become some of the most highly-skilled workers around — from medics to truck drivers to mechanics. Once they leave the military, though, many troops struggle to translate their experience and value for civilian employers. Although their skills are expertly honed and tested in training and in the field, they lack the civilian credentialing required for them to do the same job in the civilian world. A medic responsible for stabilizing injured troops and providing critical early care should be able to return home and work as an EMT. A truck driver with thousands of hours under his or her belt while in the military should have the civilian equivalent of the military license to be able to be hired stateside by a transport company.
The $663 billion National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 included a provision that works toward remedying this situation. Any state receiving Department of Labor funding for veteran employment and training is now required to consider previous military training when granting certain state certifications and licenses for comparable civilian jobs. This is an important step in helping veterans ease their transition to civilian life.
New legislation also established a pilot program that allows veterans the option to go through the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) in their communities. Vets will also have the opportunity to take retake TAP multiple times, which offers them tailored career guidance at appropriate points in their lives.
Lastly, as part of the tax extender bill passed on New Year’s Day to avoid falling off the fiscal cliff, Congress extended the Returning Heroes and Wounded Warriors work opportunity tax credits for another year. These work opportunity tax credits offer between $2,400 and $9,600 to companies that hire veterans.
In the next three to five years an estimated one million service members will separate from the military. Many of these veterans will transition to civilian careers. The nation must prepare for these returning veterans and ensure that we’ve created a system that supports their success. We can’t let that 9.9 percent figure slow our momentum. Remember, there was an uptick in the unemployment rate for all veterans in December.
We can’t afford to take any progress for granted.
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