By Rick Maze – Staff writer-Army Times Posted : Friday Mar 9, 2012 9:30:24 ESt
Programs aimed at helping Iraq and Afghanistan veterans find jobs may be paying off, as the federal government reported a dramatic drop in the February unemployment rate for people who separated from the service since 2001.
While the nation’s overall unemployment rate remained static at 8.3 percent, the jobless rate for Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans fell in February to 7.6 percent, down from 9.1 percent in January and 12.5 percent in February 2011.
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.
For veterans of all generations, the February unemployment rate was 7 percent, down from 7.5 percent in January.
Federal, state and local governments, and private industry have undertaken broad efforts to help separating service members find jobs, and more ideas appear every day.
On Thursday, Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., an Air Force veteran who served during the 1991 Gulf War, introduced a bill aimed at using federal authority over licensing to help more veterans get jobs. His Veterans Skills to Jobs Act, HR 4155, would require federal agencies to treat relevant military training as the equivalent of federal licensing and certification requirement, which he believes would put more veterans to work faster.
Denham’s bill would help in fields that require federally issued occupational licenses, including aerospace, communications and maritime jobs.
In a statement, Denham said the federal government “should be an example to the states that are looking for ways to improve veteran transitions.”
“America is blessed with the strongest, most capable and professional military in the world,” he said. “Unfortunately, even though many of our veterans have the training to perform a wide variety of occupations, the private sector and even other departments of the federal government do not recognize this training.”