As the economy continues to improve and a number of programs begin to take hold, the unemployment rate among post-9/11 veterans has been steadily dropping in recent months, and that trend continued in May. Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the unemployment rate among veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan fell to 7.3 percent last month, which may be an indication that the concerted effort to help vets find employment opportunities is paying off.
To truly appreciate how much the unemployment figures for young veterans have improved recently, the public need only look back one year. In May 2012, the unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan vets sat at 12.3 percent. Ever since, that number has been steadily dropping, and although some critics suggest the sample size is too small to draw any substantial conclusions, the continued improvement suggests it's a long-standing trend. In fact, for veterans of all ages, the unemployment rate in May stood at about 6.6 percent – lower than the national average of 7.6 percent. Advocates are encouraged by the success, but say there's still more work to be done.
"This is an extremely positive step," Tom Tarantino, chief policy officer for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told NBC News. "It's the result of a lot of hard work by a lot of people both in and out of the government. But this isn't the time to take our eye off the ball."
A collective effort
Bringing down the unemployment rate among the youngest veterans has been the result of collaboration between both private businesses and the government. At the center of the effort is the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, which made its way through Congress in 2011. The legislation included language geared toward making it easier for vets to find employment opportunities after separating from service. It aimed to expand education and training, improve transition assistance and help troops transfer the skills they learned in the service to the civilian world.
However, efforts to reduce unemployment weren't just limited to Congress. Servicemembers could also head to AFBA'S Career Center, which not only helps connect veterans with companies that are hiring but also offers assistance with networking and other important aspects of the job search.