June 10, 2013
By Charles Zuckerman
As the military prepares to wind down operations in Afghanistan, a great deal of attention has been paid to the unemployment rate among the country's youngest veterans. The efforts seem to have paid off, with a steady decline in the rate over the last several months, and that trend continued in May. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed the unemployment rate among post-9/11 veterans to be 7.3 percent - even lower than the national average.
The figure is 0.3 percent lower than it was in April, but compared to a year ago its a substantial improvement. In May 2012, the unemployment rate among vets of Afghanistan and Iraq stood at 12.3 percent. This quick turnaround is thanks in large part to a number of programs - launched by both the government and private companies - to help bring down the unemployment rate. Among the most significant efforts was 2011 VOW to Hire Heroes Act, which helped make it easier for service members to use the skills learned in the military in the civilian world. The Joining Forces initiative, which was started by Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, has also helped hundreds of thousands troops find jobs. Despite the progress, there is still work to be done.
"This just reinforces that with a little bit of concerted effort by the public sector and private sector, we can fix the immediate problem," Tom Tarantino, chief policy officer for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told NBC News. "But it's going to take a much larger effort to solve all the structural problems that caused this in the first place: We still have to shore up how to translate military skills (into civilian jobs), and we still have to make sure that we're training veterans to enter the workforce properly."
Many military spouses still struggle to find employment opportunities often due to frequent moves. However, a number of states have passed legislation to make it easier for spouses to transfer licenses and other credentials from state to state.