The veteran-unemployment crisis may be ebbing toward an end as the jobless pace for younger ex-troops declined in June for the fifth consecutive month, marking its lowest rate since November 2008, the Labor Department reported Friday.
Among former service members who served during the Iraq and Afghanistan eras, 7.2 percent were out of work last month, undercutting the 7.5 percent unemployment rate posted in June by non-veterans – a monthly milepost reached only three times during the past five years, federal figures show.
Veterans and company leaders were not prepared Friday to declare victory over the chronic quandary. But one job recruiter and former Navy pilot said the brighter stats reflect the immense sweat spent by veterans advocates on job fairs and resume-writing help plus the spreading buzz among business honchos who are starting to trust and tap a pool of ex-military talent once largely ignored.
“You have a very viable workforce – mature, skilled, seasoned, reliable and disciplined – and employers are making a concerted effort to look at that pool of candidates almost separately from the non-veteran pool,” said Sean Carroll, managing partner at Polachi Access Executive Search, based near Boston.
“It's almost like when you apply to college: there’s a pile of applications from legacy candidates (that get the first look) and then a pile from everybody else," added Carroll, who flew missions during the first Gulf War. "You’re seeing that now with employers: there's a pile of veteran candidates then there’s everybody else.”
A massive public-private drive to hire younger veterans was ignited in early 2011. That year, first lady Michelle Obama launched the "Joining Forces" campaign, which has helped escort nearly 300,000 ex-military members from careers in uniform to civilian jobs, the White House reported April 30. In March 2011, JPMorgan Chase kicked off its "100,000 Jobs Mission," partnering with dozens of other companies – including Wells Fargo, United Airlines and Coca-Cola – to put veterans into civilian roles.
The ongoing drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, which ultimately will bring 34,000 troops home during the next year, is continually restocking the lines of job hunters.
Not all slices of the American veteran community are seeing better financial times, however.
Among veterans between the ages of 20 and 24, the June unemployment rate reached 21.0 percent – compared to a 14.3-percent jobless pace among U.S. non-veterans in the same age bracket, reports the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, a veteran-boosting initiative at Syracuse University, backed by JPMorgan Chase. Experts say far more work must be done to help the youngest ex-troops transition from combat to civilian vocations.
"Folks want to give back to the veterans," Carroll said. "If employers can do that, can leverage the skills these men and woman have developed (in war) – I don't want to call it a sympathy vote – but I think they do want to give them a shot."
More business news:
Follow NBCNews.com business onTwitter and Facebook
First published July 5 2013, 2:30 PM