For years, it's been no secret that veteran unemployment rates were usually higher than the civilian population. But now, they've officially crossed the threshold to the other side. Reported by CNBC, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate is down to 3.9 percent since October. Not only is that the lowest point in seven years, it's better than the nations average of 5 percent. Veterans have been going stronger than the civilian population for 23 uninterrupted weeks.
This is great news for veterans, and there are a variety of factors at play that contributed to this success. One of the biggest was an executive order signed by President Barack Obama in 2009, the Veteran's Employment Initiative. This order enticed federal agencies to prioritize veteran hiring, and since 2014 over 250,000 veterans have found job in the federal government.
Another factor of success was the predominance of private groups that focused on ushering veterans into jobs. Organizations like Be a Hero, Hire a Hero and Hiring Our Heroes formed partnerships worked to bring veterans to job fairs and find as many points of entry into the civilian job market as possible.
"Companies have heard the message many times," said Jeff Klare, CEO of Be A Hero, Hire a hero. "They're realizing that veterans make great employees that are loyal and committed. It took a while for companies to get on the bandwagon; that's why the unemployment rate has dropped."
Post-9/11 veterans were one of the biggest at-risk groups for unemployment among veterans, but wide variety of resources and support groups has helped change that. Kim Alonzo, a graduate of Fordham University, didn't have many job prospects upon graduating from college. But by working with a fellow veteran, she was able to get her foot in the door at a brokerage firm.
Alonzo was able to use her military experience to navigate an unfamiliar setting and found her footing at the firm. She majored in organizational leadership, but had no formal education on the world of finance.
"The entire firm is designed to train the veterans [and] is engaged in the mission. Every need of the veteran is addressed, and every question is answered immediately."
Starting out as a par-timer, it took her only two years to become an assistant vice president at the firm's municipal finance department.
Aside from using resources and reaching out to personal networks, veterans are gaining ground in the civilian job market by starting their own companies. The International Franchise Association has found out that one in seven franchise businesses are owned by veterans, and over 66,000 of them employ about 815,000 people.
A former specialist in the U.S. army, Jerry Flanagan leveraged his abilities to weather the 2008 recession and flourish as a business owner. When he struggled to find work during the recession, he decided that junk removal was a service that would be needed regardless of how well the economy was doing. And so, JDog Junk Removal & Hauling was born.
"The community gets behind veterans," Flanagan siad. "They feel comfortable with [vets] coming into their homes."
Flanagan stays close to his roots and actively searches for veterans and their family members to hire and promote within his company.
To aspiring entrepreneurs, Flanagan says to "consider being your own boss and franchising. There's nothing like building equity value for your family."