Veterans continue to struggle with unemployment. Why?

Unemployment for veterans who have served since 2001 has gone from 9.9 percent last year to nine percent, but it's still above the national average of 6.3 percent. Why is it hard for young veterans to find jobs?

Casey Christie/The Bakersfield Californian/AP
Associated Veterans of Bakersfield member Ben Palmer salutes during the raising of the flags Sunday, May 25, 2014 in Bakersfield, Calif. Although unemployment for veterans who have served since 2001 has slightly decreased this year, younger veterans still struggle to find work.

Memorial Day is the official start of barbecue and vacation season, but for many veterans it will be a struggle with a persistent battle: finding work.

The employment situation for veterans has improved this year, but remains stubbornly high compared to the rest of the economy. About nine percent of veterans who have served since 2001 are unemployed, down from 9.9 percent last year but still well above the national average of 6.3 percent in April, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In all, about 722,000 of the nation’s roughly 22 million veterans are looking for work.

Why is the hunt for jobs particularly difficult for young veterans? Part of the reason is that a wide swath of companies don’t value military experience, says one headhunter.

“They say that it’s great that you’re good at airstrikes and that you can hike 20 miles, but we really don’t need that,” Nick Swaggert –  a U.S. Marine veteran who is director of the veterans program at recruitment firm Genesis10 – told the Christian Science Monitor. “They’d rather have a college degree that some military vets don’t have.” 

Another reason for more unemployment – much higher rates of disability. Fully 29 percent of Gulf War II-era veterans are on some sort of disability. While there are a host of programs designed to help veterans back into the workforce, this White House report notes that challenges remain, especially licensing and credentialing related military experience in civilian life.

“Despite having valuable military experience, veterans frequently find it difficult to obtain formal private sector recognition of their military training, experiences, and skill sets through civilian certification and licensure,” the report said. “This also makes it difficult for the private sector to capitalize on the resources and time spent training and educating service members.”

Part of the problem in transitioning from military life is the change from the strict decorum in the service to the self-promotional skills required in a civilian interview.

“For example, in the military, we’re taught not to use the word ‘I’ and to keep our words short. It’s a reason that vets might struggle in interviews — and we teach them differently,” said Swaggert, who does a “reverse bootcamp” with veterans geared toward preparing them for the people skills required in a job search.

Some companies have a better track record of hiring veterans. Here are 10 that stand out,according to Military Times. And if you’re a vet searching for a job, a comprehensive list of job fairs for veterans can be found here.

Veteran-friendly employers

  1. USAA Financial Services
  2. JPMorgan Chase
  3. ManTech International Corp.
  4. Concurrent Technologies Corp.
  5. Union Pacific Railroad
  6. Verizon Communications
  7. Lockheed Martin
  8. Humana
  9. BAE Systems
  10. Intuitive Research and Design Corp.
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