Job Opportunities for Military Veterans

November 17, 2009

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Military veterans returning to the workforce do so at a difficult time, with unemployment still high and rising competition for fewer openings in the U.S. However, the private sector still offers job opportunities specifically for the nation's vets.

With the overall unemployment rate in the United States reaching a 26-year high of 10.2 percent this October and an average of 6.1 workers competing for each job opening as of September, men and women returning from military service are facing an extremely challenging job market. Yet numerous employment opportunities remain for military personnel transitioning to civilian life, many of them specifically intended for the nation's veterans.

According to the latest veteran employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the overall unemployment rate for veterans reached 8.1 percent in October, up from 5.1 percent in the same month in 2008. Despite the year-over-year increase, this is considerably lower than the unemployment rate for the general population.

However, when divided according to age, younger veterans (those in service during "Gulf War-era II") have an 11.6 percent rate of unemployment, higher than both the non-veteran rate and the rate of any other generation of veterans since World War II, the BLS findings show. This means there are currently 193,000 recent veterans who remain jobless, compared to 122,000 in October 2008, and approximately 958,000 unemployed veterans in total.

Although returning to civilian life may present its own challenges, "[t]hat transition is even harder when the job market is arguably the harshest it has been in more than six decades," the Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes. "The experience of veterans now parallels the larger labor market: Joblessness is worse among younger workers."

Although the prospects seem grim, the elevated rate of unemployment does not take into account the particularities of a veteran's job search. The unique skills cultivated through military service are actively sought out by many different types of businesses, and while competition for openings remains high, veterans enter the workforce prepared with an important credential.

"Sometimes vet status is an advantage, as when an employer — whether a vet or not — makes an effort to hire vets," the Journal-Constitution adds.

Post-military career development magazine G.I. Jobs this month released its Top 100 Military Friendly Employers list for 2010, highlighting firms in the private sector (with annual revenues higher than $500 million) that are eager to hire military veterans despite the slowdown in job creation.

Topping the list was Union Pacific Railroad, which reiterated its desire "for men and women with armed services experience to join our workforce," in a response to the findings. Rounding out the top five military-friendly companies were transportation firm CSX Corporation, financial services firm USAA, railway company Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation and security firm ManTech International Corporation.

(The full list can be found HERE.)

The manufacturing sector and the government are significant sources of employment for veterans reentering the workforce, and new initiatives are being implemented to enhance opportunities for veterans seeking jobs.

"Among all vets in 2008, 20 percent were employed by the government. Coming in second was manufacturing, at about 14 percent of all vets," the Washington Post's business blog Economy Watch reports. "By gender, a much higher percentage of female vets (30 percent of all Gulf War II) work for the government, compared to male vets of Gulf War II working for the government (23 percent). The male vets have largely migrated to manufacturing jobs."

Veterans currently receive certain preferences when applying for federal jobs, such as five to 10 additional points on passing scores in civil service tests, and last week President Obama signed an executive order to further help those returning from military service obtain jobs, the Washington Post reports. This new order will establish an inter-agency council to track and report employment progress among veterans, introducing a systematic approach to ensuring service members are able to find work.

"This is a very definite step forward in what veterans can take advantage of," Clarence E. Hill, national commander of the American Legion, told the Post. "There has never been anything like a veterans employment office. This is a big step."

"It's not just patriotism that fuels corporate America's pursuit of the 400,000 service members who separate or retire from the military each year," G.I. Jobs reported of its latest annual findings. "The leadership, discipline, integrity and 'can-do' attitude common to military veterans are exactly the qualities companies need to stay ahead of the competition in a slow economy."

Resources

Employment Status of Persons 18 Years and Over by Veteran Status... U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, October 2009

Vets, Jobs: Challenges in a Tough Labor Market by Michael E. Kanell The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Nov. 15, 2009

2010 Top 100 Military Friendly Employers G.I. Jobs, November 2009

G.I. Jobs 2010 Top 100 Military Friendly Employers by Dan Fazio G.I. Jobs, November 2009

G.I. Jobs Names Union Pacific Railroad Top Military-Friendly Employer Union Pacific Railroad, Nov. 9, 2009

Unemployment among Young Veterans Much Higher than the National Average by Frank Ahrens Economy Watch (The Washington Post), Nov. 11, 2009

With Jobs Order, Obama Gives Veterans More to Celebrate by Joe Davidson The Washington Post, Nov. 11, 2009

Annual Military Friendly Employers Survey Opens Today G.I. Jobs, Aug. 19, 2009

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