Military spouse unemployment remains high because of frequent relocation. This places undue financial hardship on military families who rely on dual incomes. Thankfully, the issue has been steadily getting better, in no small part, because of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP) program.

An introduction to the MSEP

The MSEP was founded in 2011 and has helped over 250,000 military spouses find employment in a wide range of industries. From October 2021 to October 2022, MSEP partners added an additional 40,000 spouses to that list, which is a record number for the program.

In late 2022, the Defense Department expanded its MSEP program to include an additional 70 government organizations, private sector companies and nonprofits. With the new additions, the total number of organizations participating in ensuring military spouse employment has reached over 600.

"The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement."“The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.”

MSEP Engage 2022

Virginia hosted the three-day MSEP Engage 2022 event in late October 2022. Gilbert R. Cisneros Jr., the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, inducted the 70 new government organizations at the ceremony. He also spoke of the advances of the MSEP program. The third day of the event was notable for being the first time MSEP partners directly met with military spouses who were seeking employment.

Why military spouse employment is vital

Like many civilian families, military families often require incomes from both spouses to make ends meet. Unemployment in the general population has been getting far better in the past few years, with the current rate from April to July 2022 at 3.4%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

However, the rate of unemployment for military spouses is sitting at roughly 21%, making it a worse problem for military families. This is partially because military families tend to move often, which hinders their ability to keep a job for long periods. Military spouses are often educated, career-oriented individuals. Constant relocation brings with it a host of problems, not just in their financial lives, but also in their careers.

Military spouse unemployment is a known issue among many families in the armed forces, and it’s hurting the number of new enrollments in the military. Because of this and the associated financial burdens, these families have become less likely to recommend military service to their children, according to Mike Haynie, the executive director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University.

Hope for military spouse employment

Military spouse unemployment remains a serious issue for both the families themselves and the health of the armed forces as a whole. Satisfaction with the military is vital if service members are to stay on and encourage others, including their children, to join.

A sign of hope for this ongoing issue is in historical statistics: military spouse unemployment was at 30% in 1985 and has dropped considerably with the introduction of new programs and partnerships among the armed forces and private companies. The trend is slowly but surely moving toward more steady employment opportunities for military spouses.

Military spouses should know that they can be as eligible for unemployment benefits as anyone else. While not a complete or permanent solution, this can be a viable option to lessen any financial hardship a military family may be experiencing.

Unemployment is dropping among military spouses due to the MSEP program

New focus on the MSEP and other programs designed to encourage military spouse employment should offer new opportunities for military families so they can feel satisfied with steady employment and the easing of financial hardship.