The release of January unemployment numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) may leave some feeling like we’ve achieved our Veteran hiring goals. Overall unemployment was reported as 7.9% and Veteran unemployment 7.8%; not too shabby.
However, as with all statistics, the real story told by the numbers lies in how you cut the data. A look below the surface of January’s report shows we have a long way to go in at least two critical areas of unemployment: Veterans who are 18-24 years old, especially women. Check out the overall unemployment numbers for 18-24 year olds*:
o Non-Veterans: 16.6%
o Veterans: 31.3%
o Women Veterans: 55.7%
It is surmised that these large numbers are due, in large part, to participation in the National Guard and Reserve. Several large brigades have returned recently, and their members are now joining the civilian job market. Which leads to another troubling trend that is, sadly, not new: the difficulty part-time warriors have gaining civilian employment due to the stigma of possible future deployment. While this is a legitimate concern for employers seeking top leadership talent, the excuse is wearing thin where discontinuity would be felt less acutely by the organization. At best, employers I speak to politely pass on job candidates in the Guard and Reserve; at worst, they actively refuse to consider it.
The national dialogue of the past 24 months has centered on support for hiring Veterans. If we’re serious about it, we can’t let this issue remain a dirty little secret no one talks about. I think it’s great that employers are making a big public commitment to hire Veterans; that’s a beautiful thing. But I’d like to see the number of Veterans who are actually hired after the press releases and fanfare and, further, I’d like to see the number of Guard and Reserve members represented in those companies.
Ask yourself: are you really committed to hiring Veterans and, if so, does your commitment extend to those who continue to serve the nation part-time?
* Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, monthly CPS report, 2013.
Emily King is the author of "Field Tested: Recruiting, Managing & Retaining Veterans" (AMACOM 2012)