The unemployment rate for veterans in the U.S. is 2.5 percent. That is a level that is 1.2 percentage points lower than the national unemployment rate. Much of this declining jobless trend can be attributed to the success of hiring, training, and education programs of businesses and the government.
Today, veterans account for 7 percent of the civilian population, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, so that's good news for the overall economy. Granted, the tight labor market and demand for workers after the COVID-19 pandemic, have helped everyone seeking a job find one.
In the case of veterans, they have had some extra help from the U.S. military, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and various veterans' service organizations in preparing them to re-enter the U.S. labor force. In addition, American companies have launched initiatives of their own that have successfully hired hundreds of thousands of vets as well.
It wasn't always this way.
Much of the impetus for this combined effort was triggered by the Great Recession and the dearth of jobs that were available to returning service members who were damaged and stressed out by their service in Afghanistan and Iraq. Credit goes to President Barack Obama who established several service initiatives supported by a bipartisan Congress.
Today, among businesses, veterans are seen as an exceptional class of Americans. Thanks to government programs that provide tax breaks, salary subsidies, and regulatory benefits the risk of hiring vets has been diminished substantially.
The gains in employment rates are good news for vets. Some readers might ask why these ex-members of an extremely capable fighting machine need all this extra help. This bleak batch of statistics concerning our nation's heroes might give you a few reasons:
Since 9/11, four times as many U.S. service members have died by their hands as have died in combat. Of all adults who are experiencing homelessness, 13 percent are veterans, and PTSD impacts 15 out of every 100 veterans daily.
I can commiserate. Back in the day, my job search suffered after my return from Vietnam. Part of that difficulty derived from the blowback I received from employers who equated my service with an unpopular, controversial war. I also know what it means to suffer from PTSD.
I count myself lucky because I benefited from the help I received from the psychology department of a local university I attended on the GI Bill. Still, many years later, while paddling up the Amazon River on vacation with my teenage daughter, I suffered constant flashbacks and nightmares in those jungles and afterward for days.
In any case, I can attest that many vets may feel isolated once they separate from their band of brothers. It is even worse for female veterans, who relied on sisterhood to navigate a male-dominated military. More than 70 percent of a national survey of 4,700 women veterans admitted adjusting to civilian life was difficult.
For many vets, it may take years to find a new identity, employment, and a new purpose in life. Employers say that vets do bring specific skills like leadership ability, and a strong sense of mission to the job. Companies eager to hire may sometimes be disappointed, however, because a job fit that seemed ideal on paper doesn't work out that way once the vet is hired.
A mistake many vets have made is accepting a job similar to what they did in the service, only to trigger unexpected reactions. A military convoy truck driver, for example, may discover that his new FedEx job simply aggravates negative feelings from his combat experience. It is one reason why more than 50 percent of vets returning to the workforce quit and find a second job within a year.
Fortunately, both government and businesses are now aware of the unique pitfalls vets face and have developed all sorts of successful re-training programs that exist within companies, in various governmental organizations, and the non-profit sector.
At my old alma mater, Forbes Magazine, a list of America's "Best Employers for Veterans," is now in its third year of publication. Forbes partnered with a market research company, Statista, to survey 7,000 U.S. veterans working for American-based companies employing 1,000 people or more. Two hundred companies received the highest score with aerospace and defense companies claiming the top three spots.
Government services occupied 24 spots in the list with NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Commerce leading the public sector pack. One reason the government is so heavily represented may be that veterans are given preference over other applicants for almost all federal government jobs.
All in all, veterans today have an enormous number of avenues available to them and, for the most part, most ex-military service members are willing and able to take advantage of them. That doesn't mean they won't need our help in the future. If a country is willing to go to war, in my opinion, the greater the obligation to care for those who fought.
Bill Schmick is the founding partner of Onota Partners, Inc., in the Berkshires. His forecasts and opinions are purely his own and do not necessarily represent the views of Onota Partners Inc. (OPI). None of his commentary is or should be considered investment advice. Direct your inquiries to Bill at 1-413-347-2401 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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