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Dan Beucke at Business Week breaks down the employment data and finds that, for recent veterans, the situation is getting worse. How much worse? In October 2010, the unemployment rate for veterans age 18-24 was 18.4 percent. In October 2011, it was 30.4 percent, while in the same time frame, unemployment among non-veterans 18-24 fell from 16.9 percent to 15.3 percent. The split between veterans and non-veterans age 25-34 is smaller, but it's still there and growing, while veterans over 35 are less likely to be unemployed than their non-veteran counterparts.
There are a lot of contributing factors. First, Beucke points to demographics: "Most are men, and unemployment is worse now for men: 9.5 percent in October vs. 8.5 percent for women. Younger vets are coming right out of high school; the job market punishes those with less education." Then there's the fact that, as I've previously discussed, military jobs don't necessarily translate cleanly into civilian ones. Another key factor Beucke identifies is where the jobs are coming from:
It doesn’t help that a higher proportion of vets work for government (that’s even truer of disabled vets). That has been the hardest-hit employment sector recently. Over the past two months alone, 57,000 federal, state and local jobs have been eliminated. President Obama made it a priority for federal agencies to increase hiring of vets; 25 percent of all federal civilian hires in fiscal 2010 were veterans. At least at the state and local level, many vets move into police and fire jobs, which haven’t been targeted as much as, say, teachers.
The tax incentives for hiring veterans passed by the Senate Thursday will help only to the extent that there are jobs available—the tax cuts don't create jobs—and that employers feel the skills they need and the skills veterans have line up in some plausible way. Changes to job training for veterans that were also passed may help more, but this is a steep hill to climb. At least as long as the government doesn't pass legislation to actually create jobs, or at least stop cutting government jobs.