One of VA’s most crucial responsibilities is to help prepare Veterans to enter the workforce after their service. The Post-9/11 GI Bill is a vital tool to help Vets prepare for new careers, and the VRAP initiative has helped unemployed Vets learn new trades for high-demand jobs.
These programs exist because of an unfortunate truth: the transition between the military and the civilian world can be challenging, and it’s not always a simple matter of matching military skills with civilian jobs. A lot is at play, to be certain, with everything from an economy still in recovery to wildly inaccurate perceptions of Veterans in the public and the media, which can make finding a job tricky for some Vets.
But the big picture of Veterans employment is starting to come into focus, and what we can tell so far warrants cautious optimism. The Bureau of Labor Statistics released data on Veterans employment for 2012 this week. The findings from BLS:
“The report shows a significant decline in the unemployment rate for veterans overall from 8.3 percent in 2011 to 7.0 percent in 2012. Post-9/11 veterans saw an encouraging decline to 9.9 percent in 2012 from 12.1 percent in 2011. Other categories also saw improvements.
This is something we’ve been tracking, and indeed unemployment for Veterans of all eras has trended down since January 2010 (and for some time, has been lower than the civilian unemployment rate). For Iraq and Afghanistan era Veterans, the rate is a little higher, but that group also saw a decline, from 12.1 percent in 2011 to 9.9 percent in 2012.
The BLS echoes what we believe here: our work is never finished when it comes to ensuring Veterans find employment after their service, and even with these encouraging numbers, we have to keep moving in the right direction:
Recent broad-based gains in the overall economy have helped to drive down these rates as we continue adding jobs at a steady pace, but support services that address the unique challenges faced by veterans are essential to improving upon today’s positive report.
We see this anecdotally in yesterday’s story in the Washington Post on the struggle of some Oklahoma National Guardsmen finding civilian employment, and in this analysis of why the unemployment rate can trend higher for newer Vets. Bottom line: transition is a challenging environment for many reasons, but nothing insurmountable—which sounds like something Vets have been accustomed to in the last decade.