Veterans and National Guard Jobs Data Shows 15-50% Unemployment for Young, Minorities

Media reports “inaccurate and incomplete” – real picture much worse than 7%

(ATLANTA/WASHINGTON, DC/ST. LOUIS) – The stunning 7 percent unemployment figure widely reported last week does not reflect the accurate and complete picture about the jobless rate among the veterans, Reserves and National Guard. Equally important, the headline figure creates a false impression about real jobless rates across demographic age and race categories, according to the Military Spouse Corporate Career Network (MSCCN), Center for America (CFA), and Corporate America Supports You (CASY).

Recent reports capturing the headline data culled from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that overall military unemployment “dropped” to between 7 and 7.5 percent in January and February “misses the mark” in terms of actual jobless rates among younger veterans, Reserves and National Guard – the actual numbers range between 15-50 percent unemployment. “The numbers reported last week are inaccurate and incomplete,” said Stacy Bayton, MSCCN executive director. “The methods for gathering and collating that data leave huge gaps in reporting.”

“Equally important, the consistent data over the past year shows a jobless rate pattern for 18-to-24 year olds – a large and fast-growing segment of the post-military, Reserves and Guard – at 30 percent, and among African-Americans in this group, the real rate is closer to 50 percent,” she said.

“The danger of underreporting is that Americans grow complacent about the hundreds of thousands of military and their families who need work,” said Steve Nowlan, CFA president and CEO. “Hundreds of non-profits and companies are working every day to match skilled military with civilian employment, and the challenge is on the rise with so many coming off deployment.”

Incomplete and Underreported

Bayton, whose organization operates on unique Memoranda of Understanding with the each service branch to provide employment and training services for the military (, reports the following from briefings she receives regularly from National Guard and military advisors:

  • For National Guard and Reserves, less than half have answered the BLS survey regarding whether or not they have employment, so the numbers are not representative.
  • The data compiled from the U.S. Department of Labor includes only those who file for unemployment benefits, and these numbers are months behind.
  • The data on veterans completely separated from service is nearly impossible to track. For example, many veterans have exhausted the unemployment benefits and are no longer included in the projections and estimates.

7.5% “Anomaly”

Key reported findings and analysis over the past 4 months reveal a much higher jobless rate among veterans, Reserve, and National Guard, particularly among the young (18-24 year olds) and minorities.

  • “The drop is so fast and so dramatic that it could be a statistical anomaly because veterans make up such a small part of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly employment survey. One reason to suspect a statistical blip is that the unemployment rate for female veterans separated from the service since 2011 has been in the double digits for several months, more than twice the jobless rate for men of the same generation. In the February report, the jobless rate for recent female veterans fell from 17.3 percent in January to 7.4 percent in February, putting the women’s rate slightly below the rate for men.” (Army Times, March 9, 2012).
  • “Veterans’ joblessness is concentrated among the young and those still serving in the National Guard or Reserve. The unemployment rate for veterans aged 20 to 24 has averaged 30 percent this year, more than double that of others the same age, though the rate for older veterans closely matches that of civilians.” (NY Times, Dec. 17, 2011)
  • The unemployment rate for young combat veterans — especially National Guard and reserve members — could reach 50 percent in the next two years, warns a veterans employment expert. Ted Daywalt, president and chief executive officer of, said the unemployment rate for veterans age 18 to 24 is 31 percent, far greater than the 7.7 percent jobless rate for veterans of all ages, and likely to get worse because young veterans face hurdles in a weak economy. (Army Times, Feb. 2, 2012)
  • “Dig deeper into the pages of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data and it becomes apparent that while the job market is slowly improving for most Americans, it’s moving in the opposite direction for Gulf War II vets (defined by the BLS as those on active duty since 2001). The youngest of veterans, aged 18 to 24, had a 30.4 percent jobless rate in October, way up from 18.4 percent a year earlier. Non-veterans of the same age improved, to 15.3 percent from 16.9 percent. For some groups, the numbers can look a good deal worse: for black veterans aged 18-24, the unemployment rate is a striking 48 percent.” (BusinessWeek, Nov. 11, 2011)
  • See comments from Maj. Gen. Gregory Vadnais, the Adjutant General and Commander of the Michigan Army and Air National Guard, on unemployment among Guard (

Todd Young, Center for America

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