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Jobs outlook darkens for veterans in June

Jul. 8, 2011 - 11:11AM   |   Last Updated: Jul. 8, 2011 - 11:11AM  |  
Unemployed Air Force veteran Tracy McConner, 45, registers at the Military and Veterans Employment Expo on May 24 in Golden, Colorado. The event was aimed to help combat the high unemployment rate among veterans and members of the National Guard and Reserve.
Unemployed Air Force veteran Tracy McConner, 45, registers at the Military and Veterans Employment Expo on May 24 in Golden, Colorado. The event was aimed to help combat the high unemployment rate among veterans and members of the National Guard and Reserve. (John Moore / Getty Images)
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Employment statistics for June show little has changed for veterans trying to find work in a tough job market.

With just 18,000 net jobs created in the U.S. for the month, the overall national employment rate is 9.2 percent and the unemployment rate for veterans of all generations is 8.8 percent, according to the employment situation report released Friday by the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For young veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan era, the unemployment rate for June was 13.3 percent.

All of those numbers are worse than in the May jobs report, when the national unemployment rate was 9.1 percent, the overall veterans' unemployment rate was 8.3 percent and unemployment among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans was at 12.1 percent.

The June report also shows that female veterans are experiencing the same problems as women in general in finding and keeping jobs in the weak economy. For men, the veterans' unemployment rate for June is 8.7 percent. For women, the rate is 10.2 percent.

The Obama administration and Congress are trying to find ways to help veterans find work, but this has proven difficult. A major hiring initiative launched by the Obama administration to get veterans into the federal workforce resulted in a net increase of just 2,000 more veterans being hired.

On Thursday, the chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee introduced two veterans' employment bills. One, HR 2433, would create a new retraining program for older veterans who are out of work and would make it mandatory for separating service members to receive briefings on how to find post-service jobs. The second bill, HR 2443, would create tax credits for small businesses to encourage the hiring of veterans.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., said his goal is to reduce veterans' employment to 5 percent within two years. "In today's economic environment, finding meaningful employment is difficult, and it's no different if you are a veteran," Miller said in a statement. "We must come together as a nation to keep our promise to those who have protected not only our liberty, but the American way of life. It is our duty to welcome these men and women back into society and match their skills with jobs."

Miller's committee will hold a July 15 hearing on HR 2433, the Veteran Opportunity to Work Act, or VOW Act. The Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee already passes a comprehensive veterans' employment bill, the Hiring Heroes Act. The bills have significant differences that will have to be reconciled before final passage.

Military and veterans' groups have been pressing congressional leaders to pass veterans' employment legislation quickly so the unemployment rate for veterans drops by Veterans Day on Nov. 11. Congressional aides said it is more realistic to hope that Congress could pass legislation by Veterans Day that might result in some improvement next year.

Miller's Tax Credit to Hire Veterans Act, referred to the House Ways and Means Committee for review, would provide a $25,000 credit for new hires who are veterans, with a business able to claim the credit for up to 25 new employees. These would have to be new hires, not replacements for existing employees, and the veteran would have to be employed for one year and work at least 38 hours a week for a business to claim the credit.

This is not the first proposal to use tax incentives to get businesses to hire veterans. Miller's bill joins a pile of similar ideas pending before the ways and means committee, where tax legislation originates. Miller said the bill could be taken up as part of a package aimed at simplifying tax law for small businesses, a priority for House Republicans.

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