A lot of fanfare has been made of the improvements to military veteran unemployment rates from the high point in late 2010 to its current rate in 2017. On March 10, 2017, the Department of Labor announced that the military veteran unemployment rate was at 3.9 percent, which is below the national average. So from the highs of 12 percent to 15 percent during the past administration and the recession, the claim is that military veterans are in a better position in the workforce.
Not so fast.
The military veteran unemployment rate is an overused and only a partial success measure of military veterans in the workforce. Indeed, an unemployment rate metric appears to be virtually foolproof. You are either employed or not. Right? Sadly, the Department of Labor and the Veteran’s Administration have overused the military veteran unemployment rate and not paid enough attention to other vital military veteran labor force success indicators.
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What may shock most people is that the military veteran unemployment rate is only a partial labor force indicator to the success of military veterans in the workforce. There are four primary labor force economic measures that military veterans need to have to be successful in the modern civilian workforce.
The four important workforce success metrics for military veterans:
1.) Unemployment rate (low): The number of military veterans actively looking for employment but not employed.
2.) Labor force participation (high): The number of military veterans actively participating in the workforce, working, or looking for work.
3.) Underemployment (low): The number of military veterans that want a full-time position, but who are unable to find full-time employment or who have to work multiple part-time positions.
4.) The Gulf War II military veteran population. This is the generation of military veterans that have fought the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locations across the globe. This group of military veterans were on active duty following 9/11 or have been deployed since then. This group has struggled with employment, unemployment, and underemployment more than other military veteran groups.
The data tells a clear and consistent story about the simultaneous fall of the military veteran employment rate and labor force participation. In 2006-2007, at the height of the economic expansion, military veteran labor force participation was at 88 percent and unemployment was at about 5.2 percent for Gulf War II military veterans aged 24-35. When the severe economic recession began in late 2008, military veteran labor force participation fell from 88 percent and stabilized around 82 percent in 2016.
The military veteran unemployment rate rose to 13 percent in 2010 and then fell slowly to just above 6.2 percent in 2016. However, even though the unemployment rate for Gulf War II military veterans is back around pre-recession levels, approximately 6 percent of Gulf War II military veterans aged 24-35 have left the workforce and not returned.
Last week, the Military Times ran an insightful story on the growing number of Gulf War II military veterans working two and three jobs to make ends meet. This Military Times exposé on military veteran underemployment, combined with the low rate of military veteran labor force participation, demonstrates that the military veteran labor force issues are far from solved.
The Department of Labor, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, and businesses need to create an engaged strategy to return military veterans to the workforce as well as create careers and well paid jobs. Part-time jobs and misleading economic indicators about the labor force success of military veterans misleads the country, and is a disservice to those that defended it.
Chad Storlie is a retired lieutenant colonel with 20-plus years of active and reserve service in infantry, Special Forces, and joint headquarters units, and an OpsLens contributor. He served in Iraq, Bosnia, Korea, and throughout the U.S. and was awarded the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Special Forces Tab, and the Ranger Tab. He is the author of two books and has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University. This article is from OpsLens and is used by permission.
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