Unemployment rates for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are relatively low

On December 30, 2010, the Washington Post published an article on the job market that veterans of recent wars are facing (Gulf War 2 is apparently the Federal name for the Post-9/11 wars). It’s a good article that gives a glimpse into the difficulties (and also successes) of young veterans who’ve left the service.

The unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans was 10 percent in November, compared with 9.1 percent for non-veterans, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unemployment rates for combat veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been higher than the overall rate since at least 2005, according to the bureau.

I’m sure many returning veterans are having a hard time finding jobs but one shouldn’t paint an overly bleak picture. Looking at wider set of data than simply the unemployment rate for non-veterans and Gulf War 2 veterans suggest that the latter are in a good deal better shape in the labor market than the Washington Post article suggests.

The Gulf War 2 veterans differ from the rest of the labor pool in at least two major ways: They are far more likely to be men (about 85%) and they also skew younger (the veterans interviewed in the article are 22 to 24 years old). This recession has been much harder on men than on women and young men have much higher unemployment rates than older workers. The table below shows the unemployment rate for male Gulf War 2 veterans, for male non-veterans of all ages, for men 20-24 years old (regardless of veteran status) and for men 25-34 years old (regardless of veteran status). The last row shows the unemployment rate for all workers (men and women, regardless of veterans staus and age).

Unemployment rates

  Sep 2009 Oct 2009 Nov 2009 Sept 2010 Oct 2010 Nov 2010
Gulf War-era II veterans (Men) 9.7 11.5 9.9 10.4 10.4 10.4
Non-veterans (Men) 10.2 10.4 10.4 9.6 9.3 9.9
20-24 (Men) 16.9 18.6 18.3 17.1 16.6 18.2
25-34 (Men) 12.1 11.5 11.2 10.9 10.4 11.0
All 9.8 10.1 10.0 9.6 9.6 9.8

As you can see, the Gulf War-era 2 veterans are doing relatively well in an economy that isn’t particularly favorable for men, and in particular young men.

Also, the population of Gulf War 2 veterans in the labor force is growing quickly, so even though the number of employed male Gulf War 2 veterans grew by about 30,000 a month their unemployment rate remained stuck at 10.4% in September, October and November of 2010.