From the Bureau of Labor Statistics: The Employment Situation of Veterans

On March 31, the U.S. Department of Labor, Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS), hosted its monthly meeting with representatives from various Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs).

This month’s meeting featured presentations from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and from DOL VETS’ Women Veteran Program (WVP) using data from the BLS’s 2016 Current Population Survey (CPS), a joint program between the BLS and the Census Bureau. The data was presented by labor economists James Borbely and Karen Kosanovich of the BLS, and Nancy Glowacki, program manager of the WVP.

Standout data covered everything from good news (a continued trend of lower unemployment rates) and areas for concern (older veterans, and in some cases women, too, could use more support). The results arguably shine light on specific areas and demographics where veterans employment thrives, as well as areas where more targeted attention (more support from state and Federal organizations, as well as from both public and private employers) could perhaps achieve more progress.

Experts and representatives from VSOs in attendance at the meeting brought up a number of related topics: the increased desire for more entrepreneurial skills training for older veterans, more occupational skills training for veterans aged 35 and older, expanded G.I. Bill coverage, and increased awareness and advocacy for programs that help businesses develop opportunities to hire veterans.

Here’s a look at some of the most striking numbers from the BLS’s report:

  • Unemployment rates of both veterans and nonveterans continue a decade-long decrease. After peaking in 2010 and 2011 (unemployment above 10%), veterans are now experiencing the lowest unemployment rate in 10 years, which at 4.3% is even lower than the unemployment rate of nonveterans.
  • Aging veterans are most likely to be unemployed. Of 453,000 unemployed veterans in 2016, more than half were age 45 and over—whereas veterans aged 18 to 44 comprise 40% of unemployed veterans, and only 24% of those aged 18 to 34.

VSO representatives and BLS and VETS experts at the meeting discussed how challenging it can be for older veterans to find employment, especially after being out of work longer than six months.

Experts and officials cited the skills mismatch that occurs when the skills required for jobs lost don’t match the skills required in jobs available now, as well as how older veterans are more likely to attempt to start their own business, which brings its own set of challenges.

Younger veterans, those who served between 2001 and the present, are the least likely veterans to remain unemployed for six months of longer.

  • Compared to nonveterans, veterans are much more likely to work for the Federal government. While the vast majority of veterans are employed in the private sector, only 2% of nonveterans work for the Federal government, compared to 10% of veterans (and 16% of veterans from 2001 to present). And the Federal government employs 20% of disabled veterans.
  • Women veterans from 2001 to present are more likely than women non-veterans to work in management and professional occupations. This category of jobs tend to be more high paying, and nearly 50% of women veterans work in this category.
  • The highest unemployment rates for veterans come from veterans aged 18 to 54 who are enrolled in school. Women veterans enrolled in school saw the highest unemployment rate of all, at 8.0%.

And here’s a rundown of further data on women veterans:

  • In 2016, women veterans experienced 5.0% unemployment, compared to 4.2% by male veterans.
  • Women veterans remain unemployed for an average of two weeks fewer than male veterans.
  • Women veterans are more likely than male veterans to enroll in college or graduate.

Visit for more information from the survey mentioned above.

The DOL VETS website hosts comprehensive resources for veterans seeking training or employment, for employers seeking to hire veterans, and for women veterans.

We’ll have another report on veterans employment news and trends after DOL VETS hosts its next monthly meeting with VSOs.

Note: All charts used above were created by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, based on data from the Current Population Survey, annual averages 2016.