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The job market appears to have improved for Post-9/11 veterans, as the Labor Department reports the unemployment rate for the newest generation of veterans dropped to 9.7 percent in September.
For those separated from the service since Sept. 11, 2001, the September 2012 jobless rate is lower than the 10.9 percent rate in August and comes as the government has been ramping up transition and employment programs for veterans and as the economy has been creating new jobs.
The Labor Department reported 114,000 jobs were created in September, primarily in the health care, transportation and financial services fields.
For veterans of all generations, the September jobless rate was 6.7 percent, slightly higher than the 6.6 percent rate in August and better than the overall 7.8 percent national unemployment rate.
Month-to-month changes in the veterans' unemployment rate may not mean much because veterans make up a small part of the Labor Department's sample, but the trend has shown improvement over the 11.3 percent average unemployment rate in 2011 for the Post-9/11 veterans who are having problems as they separate from the military.
But when comparing rates for the younger veterans by gender, the data's small sample size must be considered: For men, the September jobless rate was 8 percent, an improvement over the 11.1 percent rate for September 2011. For women, the September jobless rate was 19.9 percent, a big jump over the 14.7 percent rate in September 2011.
The Defense Department has launched a pilot project to improve transition assistance classes to better prepare separating and retiring service members for their post-military life, and there are many initiatives under way to help service members put their military-learned skills to use in a new job, or to get training or education if they want to try something new.
The American Legion, the nation's largest veterans group, said Wednesday there is much more the government could do to help veterans find jobs.
In testimony before a joint meeting of the House and Senate veterans' affairs committee, Vietnam veteran James Koutz, the Legion's national commander, said the 2.4 million-member organization is working with the White House, Congress, the National Governors Association, National Conference of State Legislatures, federal agencies and the private sector to improve job opportunities for veterans. In particular, the Legion is working on new ways of getting state-issued credentials or licenses for military-learned skills, something that has proven difficult because of the lack of uniformity in licensing.
"It's no secret that a large percentage of America's veterans are struggling to find work, having faced jobless rates as much as two-thirds higher than in the comparable civilian population in the past year," Koutz said. "We cannot let up."
The Defense Department, which had long been an obstacle to helping military members get civilian credentials out of fear this would encourage troops to leave the ranks, now supports efforts to transfer the skills, Koutz said.
The Legion also proposes that the federal agencies be required to set aside at least 5 percent of contracts for veteran-owned businesses and that direct loans be available to veteran-owned businesses that are financially healthy but having trouble obtaining credit to expand or to cover operating costs.