Jobless Rate For Post-9/11 Vets on the Rise, New Data Shows

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Veterans and service members speak with business representatives about job opportunities at the Recruit Military Job Fair at San Diego, July 11, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/Jake McClung)
Veterans and service members speak with business representatives about job opportunities at the Recruit Military Job Fair at San Diego, July 11, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/Jake McClung)

The unemployment rate for veterans of the post-9/11 wars rose by more than a percentage point between December and January, new data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows.

The jobless rate for this demographic rose to 4.4%, up from 3.1% in December, according to the new report. For all veterans, the unemployment rate rose from 3.1% to 3.5%. The trend is an outlier in an employment report that showed a surging economy overall, with another 225,000 jobs added during the month.

The overall unemployment rate in January was at 3.6% in January, a tick above the historically low trend of 3.5% in December, according to the report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Even with the rise, the jobless rate for post-9/11 veterans is well below the double-digit rates reported by BLS during the height of the recession.

Related: The Veteran Jobless Rate Just Dropped Again

The latest numbers appear to reflect a steady rise of unemployment rates for veterans through 2019, although economists generally view an unemployment rate of 4% as positive and reflective of nearly full employment for the economy as a whole.

BLS reported unemployment rates for veterans below 3% for four months in the first half of 2019, but the rates have increased steadily since then.

The unemployment rates for veterans also tend to fluctuate more than those for the civilian population, according to BLS.

In September, the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans went up to 4.5%, compared to the overall 3.1% rate for veterans.

"It's definitely always a worry to see the numbers going up," said Jeremy Butler, chief executive officer of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).

He said the continuing issue is the job turnover among veterans as they seek "to find the fulfilling work they want to have after hanging up the uniform."

"It was still a struggle," particularly for the post-9/11 generation of veterans, to find work that will put them on a career path, Butler said. The result is what the economists call "underemployment," he said.

"You don't realize it until you leave the military" that a civilian job can often lack "that sense of shared mission, shared work ethic. That can be a challenge in the civilian world," Butler said.

In a statement accompanying the latest jobs report, BLS Commissioner William Beach said that non-farm employment rose in January, with major gains in construction, health care, transportation and warehousing.

The 225,000 jobs added in January exceeds the average of 211,000 jobs created in the previous three months, the report notes.

The latest numbers showed that the unemployment rate for all male veterans was 3.5% in January, compared to 3.0% in December. For women veterans, the rate was 3.2%, compared to 1.9% in December, BLS said.

For post-9/11 male veterans, the unemployment rate in January was 4.7% in January, compared to 3.1.% in December. For female post-9/11 veterans, the unemployment rate in January was 2.6%, compared to 3.1% the previous month.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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