Many of our veterans between the ages of 18 to 24 are unemployed due to their participation in the National Guard and Reserves. What was marketed as money for college, an opportunity to serve and great job experience is turning out to be a career killer.
The unemployment rate for the 18-to-24-year-old veterans in February rose to 36.2 percent (60,000) from January’s 31.3 percent (51,000), an increase of 4.9 percent. The last Current Employment Index (CEI) from the National Guard Bureau (NGB) indicated that nearly 21 percent of the Army National Guard participants nationally are unemployed. This according to Ted Daywalt, CEO and President of VetJobs.com.
When you look at the national unemployment rate, which dropped to a four-year low of 7.6 percent in March from 7.7 in February and compare that to those who serve or have served in our Guard and Reserve, there is a troubling trend that puts our states and country at risk.
Let me digress for a moment. The government admits that the number of Americans in the labor force — those who have a job or are looking for one — fell by nearly half a million people from February to March, so these “under 8 percent” unemployment numbers are not a true representation of those truly unemployed. The “real” number would create panic – especially when you realize that people without a job who stop looking for one are no longer counted as unemployed – and when you then realize that, according to an AP article, “the percentage of working-age adults in the labor force — what’s called the participation rate — fell to 63.3 percent last month.” We’ve got as many discouraged couch surfers as we did in 1979.
Back to my point. The trending increase in veteran unemployment could cause the next generation to pause before they opt to serve – that is if they are even paying attention and can break away from Instagram, Facebook and texting. The day could come that when our state, or any state, has a flood or crisis, the government will need to turn to private contractors – and now that the Department of Defense views the Guard and Reserves as an active augmentation force, our ability to increase force strength with trained individuals could be compromised.
It is no mystery why there is unemployment for those who serve in the Guard and Reserves: “Employers cannot run a business with their employees constantly being called up and taken away from the business” (Daywalt).
So what’s the answer? Contract labor and job sharing. If companies want to have some of the best young talent in the marketplace, many of who are in the Guard and Reserves, they will need to reconsider how they “do business.” Our young generation will need to excel at contracting with several employers. OR, we can continue to hire out-of-country talent, the Army can continue to spend hundreds of millions on unemployment insurance – which is ultimately paid by us – and we can continue to weaken our great nation.
Bottom line: Indifference and ignorance is not an option. We all need to think outside of “this is how we’ve always done it” and work to actually solve the problem.
Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Edmonds-based Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.” He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.