Understanding Unemployment: August’s Report

August Unemployment Numbers

Every month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics releases “The Employment Situation” Report, giving us a snapshot of how Americans are faring in the job market. On average, veterans fare better than their civilian counterparts, with a lower unemployment rate than the general American population. This month, the trend continues: veteran unemployment stands at 3.5 percent with the national average for unemployment standing at 4.3 percent. Unemployment rates among post-9/11 veterans, however, tend to paint a grimmer picture: on average, unemployment impacts post-9/11 veterans at a higher rate than the general population. This month, post-9/11 veterans faced a 4.6 percent unemployment rate to the 4.3 percent unemployment of the general population.

It is important to note, however, that fewer post-9/11 veterans are asked about their employment status than any other subset we report on; this discrepancy means that it is hard to tell if unemployment numbers of post-9/11 veterans paint the correct picture. When broken down by gender, the disparity is even more challenging. Only 19 post-9/11 women veterans reported being unemployed out of a total of 537 post-9/11 women veterans surveyed; yet, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimates there are about 700,000 post-9/11 women veterans in the United States. This variance in population size shows us that just looking at unemployment is not a reliable way to understand post-9/11 veteran employment, especially when it comes to women veterans.

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Using the Employment-Population Ratio

However, perhaps a better way to understand the veteran unemployment numbers and its impact on post-9/11 veterans is through the Employment-Population Ratio (EPR). The EPR compares all those who can work (aged 16 through 64) versus all those that are working to illustrate the proportion of working-aged adults who are employed. EPR also takes into account those individuals who cannot work, because of sickness or disability, for example, or those no longer actively looking for employment.

When looking at the EPR, post-9/11 veterans consistently show a ratio over 75 percent. In July, the post-9/11 veteran EPR was 76.5 percent, meaning that for every 100 post-9/11 veterans able to work, about 76 of those 100 are employed. When we compare that number to the total veteran EPR, which stands at 47.2 percent, post-9/11 veterans fair better than their older veteran counterparts in employment as a whole.  

Bottom Line

While it is important to understand that post-9/11 veterans face a higher unemployment rate, on average, than their fellow veterans and fellow Americans, it is also important to keep in mind that overall, post-9/11 veterans participate in the labor market at a higher rate as well. Supporting this idea, a recent report released by City University of New York (CUNY) found that post-9/11 veterans tend to have higher education, income, and employment rates, and lower rates of poverty than their civilian counterparts.

Closing the Gender Gap

Unfortunately, the socio-economic edge earned by post-9/11 veterans does not apply to both genders evenly. CUNY also found that post-9/11 women veterans tend to have lower income, higher unemployment, and higher poverty rates than their male veteran counterparts.

The Employment-Population Ratio emphasizes this gender gap. Over the past 6 months, male post-9/11 veterans showed an EPR between 77 percent and 81 percent while their women counterparts had an EPR between 61 percent and 68 percent. These numbers illustrate that post-9/11 women veterans are participating in the labor market at a lesser rate as their male counterparts. Coupled with higher-trending unemployment rates, we can see that post-9/11 women veterans are at a disadvantage compared to their male counterparts.

IAVA is dedicated to ending this imbalance; the Deborah Sampson Act, currently introduced in Congress, will pilot a peer-to-peer program focusing on employment mentoring. Join us today by supporting our #SheWhoBorneTheBattle campaign to close the gender gap and tell your members of Congress that you stand by women veterans and they should too by supporting the Deborah Sampson Act for Women.

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