Veteran Employment Statistics: A Look at the Numbers
November 8, 2019
James: I’m actually not going to put up all
of the charts and graphs because everyone said that we shouldnít do that so Iím going
to describe for you the employment situation rather than do it in charts and graphs. Iím
going to tell you a couple of things about the employment situation of veterans broadly
and about the unemployment rate of vets, specific populations and some other things. Iím going
to say a little bit of context for you first. Everybody has seen information recently on
the unemployment rate of veterans and of veterans with disabilities. Has it gone up or has it
gone down? Does anybody know? Down? Male: [Depends on the ages 00:00:45].
James: Depends on the ages? Depends on what service you’re looking at? Depends a little
bit on what time period you’re looking at, if you go back 10 years, you go back 6 months,
18 months, all of those kinds of things? This is one of the challenges with data on veterans
with disabilities and veterans without disabilities as it depends on what youíre looking at,
and it depends how youíre looking at the employment situation of veterans. Whether
it’s getting better or worse, where itís getting better or worse, and understanding
what those demographics are across the populations that youíre specifically targeting is really
an important component of it. If we look at all veterans of all ages, it is better, their
unemployment rate, is better than the unemployment rate of nonveterans.
I’m a vet. I will tell you with absolute certainty that my time in the Air Force better
prepared me for the workforce than anything I did in college or otherwise, and I think
if we look at all veterans of all ages they will probably uniformly say something like
that, that this actually prepared them very well for the workforce. When we look at our
business case for hiring a veteran, a document that Mike put together about a year ago, we
looked at all of the academically research support for these theses, that veterans make
better employees. We find that it is supported in all of the literature related to the all
volunteer force. Veterans have a lot to contribute to employers
and to American competitiveness. Employers are realizing this and have begun to hire
them in more significant numbers, not because it’s the right thing to do, but because itís
the right thing to do for their business, for their competition, for their competitive
statuses. If they donít hire somebody in a competitive situation, weíll hire. All
of those things become very, very important when you’re looking at and understanding
that. That all being said, the unemployment rate
for our youngest veterans, the unemployment rate for our youngest enlisted veterans in
particular, is higher than their nonveteran peers. Some have suggested the reasons for
that include that this is a natural transition. I do think thereís some truth to that. I
do think there is a natural transition period, but I donít think thatís all of it. I think
that there are some systemic barriers. I think that there are some concerns. I think that
there are some things that have happened very differently in this war than in past wars.
I think multiple deployments have happened in a much different way in these wars than
have happened in different wars. I think that we have relied differently on our guard and
reserve components. There are a lot of things about the data here
that we donít fully understand. For people with disabilities, we often talk about the
unemployment rate in this country, and a lot of people who donít understand the terms
extraordinarily well, unemployment rate versus in the labor force and labor force participation,
the unemployment rate of people with disabilities is about 70% in this country.
The truth is that about 30% of people with disabilities are in the labor force, are actively
seeking work, or are employed. Thatís not quite the same as it is in the veteran population,
but interestingly, veterans with disabilities are unemployed at far lower rates than their
peers who are nonveterans. I think a lot of that goes to the fact that they have had careers
in the military and they know that they can work and the injury becomes a barrier that
needs to be overcome, and thatís something that veterans are [inaudible 00:03:59].
It’s also something that weíll talk a little bit about tomorrow in one of our panels, the
idea that corporate America already understands how to hire people with disabilities because
theyíve been required to do by the ADA for over 20 years. There’s a lot lessons that
we could learn from unemployment of veterans, I’m sorry, unemployment of people with disabilities
that we can apply into the veteran’s space. There are a lot of things to learn, I think,
in this meeting over the next couple of days. We have terrific civilian employers who are
coming in and talking with us about it. We have folks who are in government and folks
that are in the nonprofit sector, folks that are in the private sector, and I think that
those collaborations are really, really a key to this.
Iím going to give you some numbers now that we’ve given a little bit of that context.
We’ve got somewhere between 200 and 350,000 people a year separating from the military
over the next 5 years because weíre drawing down from Afghanistan in part and for other
reasons as well. Thatís a total of about a million who will separate over the next
5 years. There are now a little over 20 million veterans in the United States overall, about
844, 000 of those veterans are looking for work at any given time right now, and about
252,000 of those are post 911 veterans. The 252,000 is out of about 2.5 to 3 million veterans.
There are a significant number of veterans who served post 911, between 2 and 3 million
and 250,000 or so of those are actually seeking employment.
There is a significant number of veterans who are available, and most of those veterans
are going to have a variety of training that you can draw on. There are differences within
this by age, and Iím going to talk about those in a minute as well. Iím going to talk
a little bit about women veterans. One of things that we know about women veterans right
now is that thereíre about 1.8 million overall female veterans, about 8% of the total population.
Right now, thereíre about 14% of the active duty force and about 18% of the reservists.
The average age is about 48 compared to about 62 for male vets so theyíre younger than
their counterparts. The post 911 cohort has about 150,000 women who have deployed to Iraq
and Afghanistan, and of those about 30,000 are single mothers.
That has implications when we talk about veteran homelessness and whatís happening in new
veteran homelessness issues, whoís becoming homeless, what the definition is of homelessness
and how theyíre being served, but employment is very tied to that and disability is also
tied to that. Thatís an important component of it.
The post 911 female veteran unemployment rate overall is about 15% so itís significantly
higher than their nonveteran counterparts. In some age groups, itís even higher so that
becomes really important as well. Thanks to Joining Forces for some of those numbers,
that’s their most recent shared out of the White House on many of those.
When we look at veterans with disabilities and that the couple of million who have served
since 911, we know that about 30% of them, conservatively estimated, has some sort of
disability according to some Rand studies that were recent. The numbers are estimated
that it may be higher than that. We don’t yet have a full grasp on it, and we wonít
really know until 30 to 40 years from now what those disability statistics really look
like. That was one of the findings in Linda Bilmes’ and Joe Stigliz’s work when they
looked at the trillion dollar war is that the cost of war goes up over 30 to 40 years.
The biggest reason for that is disability related claims and how those will happen over
30 to 40 years. Conservatively, right now, about 30% have
some sort of a disability. Those disabilities include things like traumatic brain injury
and posttraumatic stress, which are really considered the signature injuries of this
war, but they also include things like loss of extremities, including hands, feet, limbs,
genitalia. It also includes hearing and vision loss in some cases, and it can include burns.
These are all the kinds of injuries which are necessary to understand how to accommodate.
The good news is, again, some of our panelists who are here from the Job Accommodation Network
and from companies who have been working with the US Business Leadership Network and others
over the last 20 to 30 years already understand many of the accommodations that can work for
people with disabilities generically, and with some cultural competency can understand
how to apply those accommodations into other settings. By one of the numbers that we looked
at talking about significant numbers of traumatic brain injuries, let me compare that to the
civilian population for a minute so you know the reference population.
Although much of the advances are coming from research based on military injury, traumatic
brain injury and the VA’s work in the this area, much is also coming as a result of sports
related injuries and recreational related traumatic brain injury. There are about 1.4
million traumatic brain injury related deaths, hospitalizations and emergency room visits
each year right now outside of the military. We have substantial expertise that we can
apply to this. There are about 1.6 to 3.8 million sports
and recreation related TBIs each year. Those all donít result in those kinds of emergency
issues or really significant issues. Again, very similar to what weíre experiencing with
mild traumatic brain injury and major traumatic injury or serious traumatic brain injury.
We already know a lot about how to accommodate those, and we already understand why this
is important in our country on the civilian side because the direct medical costs and
indirect costs such as lost productivity from mild traumatic brain injury is about 12 billion
dollars in 2000. We are already on the path to fixing some of those issues because of
the fact that it impacts the civilian workforce. Thatís a really important component to know.
Digging down a little bit steeper into the statistics of what’s happening in the unemployment
rate of veterans and nonveterans and different cohorts, we look at things like what is the
unemployment rate in 2010, 2011, 2012, the most recent 3 years. Over that period of time,
weíre actually seeing generally that Gulf War era 1 and Gulf War era 2 that unemployment
rates are decreasing in the right way. Also, at that same time, the unemployment
rate of all Americans is decreasing during that time. From 2010 to 2012, for all Americans,
including vets and nonveterans, it went from 9.4% unemployment to 8.7% unemployment to
7.8% unemployment. For all veterans, those rates were lower in every one of those categories.
For 9.4 in 2010, it compared 8.7 for veterans. For 8.7 in 2011, it compared to 8.3 in 2011.
In 2012, all Americans were 7.8 and all veterans were 7. Thatís a good news story. Veterans
are unemployed at rates lower than their nonveteran peers. However, when we dig a little bit deeper
and we look at Gulf War 2 era veterans, in 2010 remember all Americans are 9.4%, but
Gulf War era 2 veterans were at 11.5%, and 2011 in went up and not down. It went to 12.1%
in 2011, and then in 2012 it went down to 9.9.
Thank you very much, Barbara, I appreciate it. Normally, Iím a diet coke person, and
Iíve got one of those right here and for whatever reason, I didnít bring mine to the
table. We see those changes and whatís happening
in that Gulf War 2 era. Itís still higher. Thatís not the whole story, though. The other
important story is as we look at depth between the nonveteran and veteran employment over
the past 10 years, the gap between them has been changing in a way thatís not favorable.
It shows that the nonveteran population is improving more now than the veteran population.
The gap between those is changing in the wrong direction.
When we look at Gulf War 1 era veterans, World War II, Korea, Vietnam veterans and other
service periods, again, very similar. Itís mostly the Gulf War 2, overall, when weíre
not accounting for age demographics and when weíre not accounting for gender demographics
or ethnicity. When we start to look at those, the picture changes significantly.
When Iím looking at the age 20 to 24 veterans, the youngest vets, probably the ones who only
have a high school education for the most part because if youíre 22 and you have a
college education youíre probably an officer. Youíre probably not going to transition out
at that age or youíre going to have been wounded and very young without much experience,
but for that particular cohort, it was 29.9% unemployment in 2011, and it was 20.6% unemployment
in 2012. Comparing that to nonveterans that same age, 20 to 24, it was 14.4 and 13.2.
There was 15 percentage point difference between vets and nonveterans in the wrong direction
there. Then in 2012, 13.2 versus 20.6%, so again, 7% difference in that 20 to 24.
One of the natural thoughts is well, letís just get them into education. Letís get them
into some sort of employment experience, and they will grow into that employment rate that
you want to see them grow into, and so we think that it will change. When we dig into
the numbers a little bit further, we find interestingly that the 25 to 29 year olds
are still unemployed at rates higher. In 2012, it was 12.9% versus 8.8%. Thirty to 34 year
olds, same thing; 8.1% versus 7.6%. It isnít until you get to the 35 to 39 year old that
itís different. Thatís about the midcareer level. 35 to 39, you’re starting
to hit your stride in the civilian world, but thatís where your veteran experience
seems to be catching up. Those experiences that you’ve had leading, thatís probably
the age when you’re being assigned in a civilian company to have that sort of leadership experience
that you already had when you were in the service, but maybe that’s a reason that you’re
becoming unemployed at different rates. They think that you’re at the level that you already
were at 10 or 12 years ago, and they’re giving you an opportunity, could be the reason.
When we get into other cohorts, though, again, the story begins to change. When we look at
males who are Gulf War 2 vets versus males who are nonveterans, you see a difference
between 9.4 and 7.6%. Itís 2 points different, but when you jump over to females, 2012 numbers,
12.6% unemployment overall as opposed to 7.3% unemployment for their nonveteran peers. That’s
a 5 percentage point gap. We look at that in the Hispanic area, again, itís a couple
of points higher. When we start to begin to look at cohorts
that are both age based and gender based and ethnicity based, then we even see worse pictures
in some cases. What we are seeing then is that Hispanic women who are 30 to 35, which
is where most of the others are beginning to pick up some ground, theyíre unemployed
at rates over 30%. We donít know why, but thatís a significant challenge. Theyíre
still in the labor force because theyíre showing up in the unemployment numbers, but
we don’t understand that piece of it. When we look at African-Americans, generally
the story is better as opposed to their nonveteran counterparts. Again, thatís an interesting
component. When we look at females by age cohort, as you get up into the age range around
50 or so, you begin to see some significant differences. Some of those things are challenging
for us to understand at this point. I guess bottom line, what I’m saying is really
important here to understand, is where you are creating programs, you really need to
understand the demographics of who you are reaching out to in any of your programs, in
any of your services in the regions that youíre in, and design those program interventions
to make sure that you have an in-depth understanding of what the demographics are, what the challenges
are, what the barriers are, and that those barriers may be different as a component of
education, as a component of ethnicity, of gender, of age, and of period of service.
It may also be as important as when did they serve, and you may need to look at periods
of unemployment. We have some data which shows that periods of unemployment have varied.
They actually seem to be getting a little bit longer now for the most current veterans
than for earlier veterans as well. These annual averages, though, that I talked
about, when we go back all the way to 2000, I’m going to show you this chart, and I’m
going to see if I can increase the size so you can see it. This was probably the only
chart that I actually wanted to show during this so if you’ll bear with me for one second,
I will actually hold it up and show it. This is the one that I think is probably the most
telling. These are the annual employment rates of Gulf War 2, of nonveterans, all veterans,
and the chartís here are wavy but generally up except for the last 18 months. These pieces
are important only in that this trend line here, the trend line that starts in 2000 goes
from a bottom here to a top here, and Iíll make this available. This is actually on our
website. This was from our annual report of unemployment data, so itís available at our
website for everybody. That trend line has gone up over the last
10 years, and I think that thatís an important thing to understand. As we are creating these
interventions, we want to make sure that we are creating interventions that are going
to start that trend line going back the other direction as well, and not only focused on
the progress over the last 18 months, but also on why that progress over the last 18
months has happened. The other thing that I want to go to and talk
a little bit about when weíre talking about unemployment of veterans and the improvements
that weíve seen over the last 18 months, is I want to talk a little bit about some
of the private sector initiatives that maybe have contributed to this. When we look at
the US Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes program, theyíre reporting that the companies
who are affiliated with that have hired somewhere over 100,000. Theyíve got commitments to
hire over 200,000, and theyíre reaching towards a 500,000 goal.
When we look at the 100,000 Jobs Mission led by our colleagues at JP Morgan Chase and another
10 companies that founded it initially 18 months ago or so and look at what theyíve
accomplished now with 101 companies, theyíve hired 64,000 veterans that we can count tangibly
over that 18 month period. Iím including in the last quarter around 12,000 and in the
quarter before that when hiring typically picks up in the economy, about 22, 23,000
veterans were hired during that period of time.
Also looking at the Joining Forces Commitments and looking at what the White House has done
with many of their companies, theyíve reported over 125,000 hirers as well. If you take those
numbers, even de-conflicting the fact that entire drop in unemployment rate because if
you add that up to that 200,000 or so, thereís entire drop in unemployment rate because if
you add that up to that 200,000 or so, thereís your couple of percentage points that have
dropped over the last year. If we werenít doing those things in very
concentrated efforts with our private sector partners and in conjunction with government
with the Department of Labor, with VA, with all DODís service branches, the new TAP and
other kinds of things, we probably wouldnít think about that, you’re talking about 300
or so companies that have made this difference. think about that, youíre talking about 300
or so companies that have made this difference. Three hundred or so companies and a variety
of coalitions that have really focused on this have dropped that unemployment rate a
couple of percent. Thatís one of things that we could look at
to drop those employments by a couple of percent upward, most recently a little bit down, but
varying across all of the different demographics, upward, most recently a little bit down, but
varying across all of the different demographics, including particularly Gulf War 2, women and
various ethnicities, which are still at a higher rate in an [elevator grate 00:20:06]
compared to where they should be, however, over time reducing to a rate that should be
lower than their nonveterans counterparts if history holds true. It remains to be seen
whether history will hold true with this. different percentages of the populations,
different disconnections from the civilian different percentages of the populations,
different disconnections from the civilian population. As a report that was put out by
our host, [Pugh 00:20:30], recently showed a very big gap between civilians and people
who have served. All of those things, I think, play into those as well.
Iím going to stop at this point and ask if anything that he wants to add, but I’ll start
with your question. anything that he wants to add, but Iíll start
with your question. Male: Just clarification, the stats that youíre
giving are based on veterans Ö James: This is BLS data.
Male Ö that are actively seeking employment. James: Yes, itís BLS data for our annual
report. We also do some monthly reports. We issue our report on the first Friday of every
month. Itís based on CPS data. All of those pieces, PPS, BLS data is based on their work
that they publish. We get some of the unpublished data and share those, and those are all people
who are actively in the workforce and seeking employment.
Any other questions? Mike, anything that you want to add at all to this?
Mike: For somebody who wasn’t going to talk about numbers, you talked about a lot of numbers.
That was good. I don’t think [crosstalk 00:21:30]. James: I wasnít going to put charts up. I
was going to talk about numbers. Mike: Yeah, I mean the only thing I will say
in the context of James talking about numbers is, is to highlight how important it is to
really be careful with data. What I mean by that is we can leverage data to be able to
tell a lot of different stories, and itís important to really think deeply about the
insights conferred by the data and not get so Ö James mentioned we issue monthly unemployment
reports based on the data collected by the Department of Labor. We do that because we
want to inform the conversation. That said, month-to-month changes in unemployment
is a consequence of that data. Honestly, I don’t believe, personally as an academic,
as a scientist, are all that valuable because the sample sizes are very small. The results
that you get can be influenced in some cases depending on what segment of the population
youíre talking about can be influenced dramatically by just 1 or 2 respondents. The annual report
that James talked about actually uses a different data source, so Iím much more comfortable
talking about longitudinal trends than I am month-to-month changes in the data. The reality
is, as James pointed out, there is more to this challenge than simply a natural transition
from military to civilian life. The challenge then becomes how do we effectively
relate military service in a way thatís meaningful? I was going to say, Iím not on camera because
that pillar was in the way, but thereís that camera staring me in the face. I will share,
for example, we did have the opportunity to get some deeper insight into the data not
too long ago by looking at unemployment claims filed by transitioning service members called
UCX unemployment. One of the interesting things from that data was that, and this was army
specific data, so itís not generalized, well, maybe, to the other service branches is 70+%
of the unemployment challenge was explained by 3 military MOSs, infantry, combat, medic,
and truck driver claims 70+ odd % of all the unemployment challenges.
We have to think about to Jamesí point, the programs that we run, the interventions, if
the motivation is addressing the unemployment challenges facing vets, we have to tailor
our programmatic interventions focused on who, in fact, is unemployed and struggling.
Further, if you looked at that unemployment data, again, itís 70+% of those filing claims
were in 3 military pay grades, E3, E4, and E5. Ninety seven percent of all those filing
claims were enlisted as opposed to officers. I share that to my earlier point about when
we design our programmatic interventions focused on unemployment, we really have to understand
who it is weíre trying to help. I think that has been one of the big take-aways.
Not to take anything away from the service academy graduate who went out and got a master’s
degree after coming out of the military, they’re going to be fine. The expense of which we
need focus our inherently constrained resources on that population, I think theyíre going
to be okay. It is the younger, enlisted soldier, sailor, airman, marine, that we have to focus
on. The last thing I was you give me a microphone
and I will talk and talk. Last thing, Iíll say, and I think this is also important and
this has gotten me in trouble in the past, so you know youíre making progress when people
get upset about what you say, so Iíll say it again. We spend a lot of time talking about
this whole idea of translating military skills to civilian life, and we built translators
to do this. I truly think it is important that we consider how a young man or woman
can build on the knowledge skills, abilities, and experiences that they realize as a consequence
of military service, but at the same time we should not be locking them into a path
where the universe of whatís possible for them after the military somehow has to relate
to what they did while they were in the military. One of the unfortunate realities that weíve
seen in the context of our work with employers is we have found many employers, not necessarily
purposefully but, who are using these MOS translators as ways to disqualify people from
jobs. You know what, if you donít fit into one of these, we were told that these 4 MOSs,
AFACs or whatever you want to call them, are the ones that are most closely aligned with
the jobs weíre trying to fill and a stack of resumes on the desk. If somebody doesnít
have one of those MOSs they donít even read beyond the MOS to look at the leadership ability,
the military accomplishments that go beyond vocation that could actually make that man
or woman an invaluable employee at that company. From my perspective, the starting point has
to be, you know what, kid, the world is your oyster. We have a post 911 GI Bill that will
get you any kind of education that you need. We have goodwill in this country among the
private sector focused on opening doors to a myriad of vocational opportunities. Just
because you drove a truck in the army doesnít necessarily mean that thatís what you have
to do in the civilian world. Our intervention should start with that conversation with that
young man or woman. Tell us what you want to accomplish, and weíll design a path to
get you there. Maybe that means you have to spend some time in school before you get to
the job, but the point is everything should be on the table. It should be the universe
of what is possible rather than the mindset of what is probable as a consequence of what
you happen to do in the military. James: I think Mike must have been looking
at the agenda because those were the next two panel topics when we go to those. What
are the realistic expectations and how do we overcome those? How do we avoid those labels
and those assumptions? We have exactly the key folks to talk about all those. Let me
take one question first. Male: I donít think I heard it [inaudible
00:29:06] percentage of jobs that the people with veterans who found jobs, what percentage
of them have had disabilities, and if so, what the nature of those disabilities are?
James: I did talk briefly about what the nature of the disabilities are, traumatic brain injury,
posttraumatic stress. Male: About the ones who got the job.
James: All of those have jobs, and itís an interesting component of it. I did not talk
about those specific breakdowns. I do have those figures, but theyíre kind of small
figures in terms of understanding what that sample size means, but Iíd be glad to talk
with you about that in specificity. What I will say now, though, is every single
type of injury that our vets have had have been able to be accommodated. There is a little
bit of definition there around severity level, and so some people who have the most severe
traumatic brain injuries, for instance, may not ever be able to work again. Most of the
others, if you can still continue to think and communicate in some way, can be accommodated
through technological advances and other kinds of things. For the most part, if you can communicate
in some way, if you can think in some way, you probably have the ability to contribute
in some way to a society and to a job. We can talk about some specifics as we go. Yes.
Tony: Yeah, my name is Tony Forbes. I work in the Office of Warrior and Family Support
on the Joint Staff, and just to talk to Mikeís point, Mike, I also just want to say that
thereís some things that weíre working on in terms of I see the problem as being
50/50, meaning that we, the military, have to look at and manage our service members
in terms of setting them up for success as well. Thatís a cultural change that needs
to take place among all our leaders and some things that weíre addressing. I deal with
it every day when Iím trying to explain to my peers in the building what our job and
mission is where a lot of us just believe we look at it from a perspective of just saying
our job is to fight and win the nations wars. Well, Iíll argue that from the minute we
raise our hand weíre making veterans. Part of that is educating those young individuals
and managing their expectations so when they do come out to the civilian world and being
caught and continue that transition, the reintegration. The point Iím trying to make is it is 50/50,
and we are working at part of this as well and understanding that itís a cultural gift,
a cultural change that we need to do within the DOD and the military itself.
James: Thanks. I absolutely agree with that.