Every year in March the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its annual Employment Situation of Veterans report, which in years past – during the depths of our economic crisis – was often a source of bad news. That’s changed, decisively. The report released today, which provides average statistics for 2014 for various groups of veterans, shows that the unemployment rate for every one of those groups fell in 2014.
In 2014, the hiring of our nation’s heroes rose with an economic tide that consistently strengthened our nation’s labor market throughout the year. With more and more of our veterans – some of our bravest, toughest, hardest-working men and women – finding work and adding to the success of American businesses, it contributes to a growing national economy based on shared prosperity. It is the fourth year in a row of steadily declining joblessness for veterans, with all veterans experiencing a drop in overall unemployment to 5.3 percent.
Veterans who have served since Sept. 11, 2001, are also making encouraging gains in the job market. From a calamitous post-recession peak of 12 percent in 2011, the unemployment rate for these veterans dropped to 7.2 percent last year. Employers continue to recognize that these veterans are strong, skilled, dedicated workers.
We should continue to remember that unemployed veterans come from all age groups and eras of military service, and these groups have distinct needs. Unemployment among women veterans in the Gulf War-era II, for example, was 8.5 percent in 2014, but we must do more to support them by passing family-friendly workplace policies like paid leave. The report contains many interesting observations when you begin comparing these groups and comparing them to non-veterans with similar characteristics, looking at the industries where they work, looking at outcomes for veterans with different degrees of disability. We can learn a lot from reports like this one in order to identify where our resources and energies would be put to the greatest use.
Promoting opportunity for veterans is part of nearly everything we do at the Labor Department, from providing priority services for veterans through nearly than 2,500 American Job Centers across the country to encouraging companies that do business with the federal government to focus on hiring more veterans, protecting disability employment rights and enforcing wage and hour laws. It is an integrated system that has enormous reach into American communities. Even as we celebrate the good news in this report, we will continue to deploy this system with every ounce of urgency to make sure all veterans have the opportunity to secure a job that helps them support their families.
Our Veterans’ Employment and Training Service sits squarely at the center of this system, developing education and training policy, administering programs in states to provide employment services to all veterans and grants to serve homeless veterans, and conducting employment workshops for active duty military members before they transition out of the service. VETS is filled with dedicated public servants who spend every day promoting opportunity for veterans, and I wouldn’t begrudge them a few cheers with this morning’s news.
Declining rates tell us one thing, but there is another number that matters a great deal: 573,000. That’s the total number of unemployed veterans in 2014. The question that all of us should ask ourselves – whether we’re employers, friends or family members of veterans, community leaders – is: what can I do today to get that number to 572,999?
That’s where we need to start, and then we’ll keep going.
Keep up with Secretary Perez on Twitter at @LaborSec.