If you served in Iraq or Afghanistan and have found yourself seemingly unable to find work since separation, you’re not alone: Post-9/11 veterans continue to face higher rates of unemployment than both their civilian counterparts and among veterans as a whole, according to a new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In the month of May, overall veteran unemployment hit a 10-year low at just 3.4%, well below the national unemployment rate of 4.0% reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Among post-9/11 veterans, the unemployment rate spiked to 4.6% from April’s rate 3.9%, the lowest this year.
“We’re encouraged that the data shows an upward trend in employment status for all veterans,” Joseph Plenzler, director of media relations for the American Legion, told Task & Purpose. “We are concerned about Iraq and Afghanistan veterans unemployability being higher than the rest of the veteran cohort.”
Throughout 2017, post-9/11 veteran employment rates have lagged behind the overall veteran population.
“I think this is another reason why we need make sure that veterans have the transition programs that best suit their lives,” Plenzler added.
According to Plenzler, it’s unclear why this particular generation of veterans faces higher rates of joblessness due to a lack of economic data, but there are some possibilities including homelessness, poverty, and service-connected disability.
But the unemployment gap with other veterans may just indicate that more post-9/11 veterans are still transitioning into the job market than their older counterparts. And while the numbers continues to fluctuate, it is encouraging that that rate has gone down drastically since January’s high of 6.3%.
It helps too that there is no shortage of programs to help veterans, such as the Pentagon-funded Transition Assistance Program, or the tens of veteran service organizations like the American Legion, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, or Veterans of Foreign Wars. Plenzler also encouraged that to stave off unemployment, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans look into using the Post-9/11 GI Bill for college or vocational training.
It’s worth noting that veterans would prefer to work than rely on VA unemployment benefits — and when they do find employment, they outearn their non-veteran counterparts by 11%. So even if it takes them a while to find jobs, the ones they’re getting are clearly worth the wait.