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Veterans' jobs programs close unemployment gap

A brochure by Disney Corporation is placed on a table during a jobs fair for veterans called 'Serving Those Who Have Served' on the campus of University of Southern California on March 20, 2013 in Los Angeles, Calif.

In 2011, the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans was 12.1 percent. For non-veterans, it was 8.7 percent. But new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest that the unemployment gap between veterans and non-veterans is gone.

Matt Maxon was a mechanic in the Navy. He worked on diesel engines. After 20 years and 14 days of service, he retired in July of 2010 and started looking for work. He sent out 800 resumes, and got just a single job interview.

He eventually ended up working at a grocery store. “Basically I got $25 a week stocking shelves when I led up to 150 men at one time,” Maxon said.

But three years later, he is poised to become a fully employed forklift mechanic. His journey illustrates one factor that has led to the drop in unemployment among veterans: education.

“We recommend that people coming out of the military after enlisting in high school take advantage of the GI bill. Now that is a program that has been enhanced significantly,” said Brian Zawikowski, who manages the military transition programs at the recruiting company Lucas Group.

Matt Maxon listened to Zawikowski’s recommendation and completed a two-year engineering degree at a community college. Maxon says it was a huge factor in helping him land his job.

And then there are the factors on the employer side. Tax credits have created incentives for companies to hire vets.

“So a Walmart, for example, they can offer anyone coming out of the military a job there and take advantage of that credit," Zawikowski said. "But most employers aren’t looking at hiring people on that scale and they need to hire people with certain skill sets.”

Yet another possible factor in the drop in veteran unemployment is improvements in the Department of Defense Transition Assistance Programs. “Historically they were actually voluntary they’ve been made mandatory. It’s more widespread. They’ve been trying to improve the content of the instruction” said Paul Heaton, a senior economist at Rand Corporation.

In the short term, data suggest that there is a period of difficult transition for veterans, but in the long term, Heaton says, “serving in the military in terms of your financial well being the evidence suggests it’s a good decision and most people end up economically better off.”

And today with more veterans working, the economy is better off too.

About the author

David Weinberg is a general assignment reporter at Marketplace.
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Wal-Mart was mentioned in your story this evening. The jobs Wal-Mart is offering Veterans are part time positions without benefits and only to those Vets that have been discharged in the last 12 months. Wal-Mart is taking advantage of the credit to employ Vets without really offering a future to those men and women who have served their country.

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