Due to the challenges of resettling into civilian life, military veterans have often had higher levels of unemployment than the general population. Through federal programs and non-profit organizations, more private employers are helping put veterans to work.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in May 2017 that the overall veteran unemployment rate hit a 10-year low at 3.4 percent, below the national average of 4 percent. Yet among the estimated 3.2 million post-9/11 veterans, the unemployment rate now stands at 4.6 percent. More than 250,000 service members transition out of the military every year, and two-thirds of veterans leave their first post-military job within two years.
Experts say the higher number of unemployed younger veterans raises concerns of new struggles for the group.
Anna Zogas, a Ph.D. candidate and researcher at the University of Washington, says while the military does an excellent job of training recruits, it often fails at preparing soldiers to return to civilian life. She says exiting the military can bring simultaneous major life changes including relocation, living independently for the first time in years and reuniting with family. Even those who have not experienced combat can find readjustment to be an overwhelming experience.
"These major life changes are challenging for military veterans, just as they are for everyone," Zogas says.
A number of non-profit organizations are striving to connect veterans with employers. Hire Heroes USA has helped more than 17,000 veterans obtain gainful civilian employment since its founding in 2007. It is now one of the largest national non-profits in its category and has an efficient approach to providing high-touch employment guidance to vets and transitioning military personnel.
"Earning a living and finding an opportunity to excel in the civilian workforce are vital to a veteran's long-term happiness and crucial to the success of the American economy," says Brian Stann, president and CEO of Hire Heroes USA.
Bradley-Morris, Inc., the largest military-focused recruiting firm in the U.S. hosts regular job fairs and events with Fortune 1000 participants and offers a number of services for veterans and military professionals. Peter Gudmundsson, president of the Bradley-Morris subsidiary RecruitMilitary, says many candidates with military experience have highly marketable skills to bring to the job market.
Large companies such as EY, Hilton, USAA, New York Life and CSX also have hiring programs directly aimed at former military members. According to the Society for Human Resources Management, private and public employers have hired more than 1.2 million former military members and military spouses in the past five years through initiatives such as the White House Joining Forces and Veteran Jobs Mission.
AT&T has a goal of hiring 20,000 veterans by 2020 and is actively recruiting retired military at all levels of the organization. Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO of AT&T, says military experience is great preparation for a successful career and that "veterans' leadership, integrity and commitment to service make them outstanding employees."