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  The Herman Trend Alert

April 15, 2009

Veteran Unemployment

According to the United States' Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the unemployment rate among veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan is an outrageous 11.2 percent. During the same period, the jobless rate for non-veterans of the same age group was 8.8 percent.

In all fairness, we must add that there is a margin of error for the veteran demographic that could put these veterans on par with the non-veterans. However, we believe there may be something else is going on here.

In the past, the Guard and Reserve were branches of military service that that mostly served domestically for periods of one to two years. Historically, the US government, Department of Defense (DOD) called up these members of the military for active-duty service only once every six years. Employers supported these citizen soldiers, because it was patriotic and that support did not cost the resources of the organization.

A few years ago, the DOD changed the rules. Although their “policy” is still to call Guard and Reserve members once every six years, the reality is quite different. During recent years the Guard and Reserve have not been used as "strategic reserves", but rather as supplements to the active duty forces. In fact, many members of these service branches are on their third and fourth activation since 2001.

We believe that the recent uptick in unemployment among these veterans is reflected in the various survey findings of the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), Business Law Review, and Workforce Management Magazine. They found that upwards of 70 percent of companies will not now hire as a new employee anyone who is active in the Guard and Reserve. Armed with this knowledge, many may choose not to enlist.

Anecdotally, as a rule recent veterans who totally separate from the service are not having as hard a time as others finding jobs, particularly those who have marketable skills, a college degree, or a security clearance.

The lesson for governments everywhere is "Consider the effects on business and industry, when you make decisions". The lesson for service members is "Make sure you have a marketable skill".


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