Presidential candidates on both sides of the political aisle have lamented the economic situation for post-9/11 veterans and their families, promising to make veteran issues a top priority for their administrations.
But statistics show that the annual unemployment rate for the most recent generation of veterans was the lowest ever recorded in 2015, based on figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which began tracking the rate in 2008.
At 5.8 percent, the annual jobless rate last year for veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time since September 2001 was only half of a percentage point higher than the average annual rate for the U.S. as a whole — 5.3 percent.
In addition, the veterans’ rate was down from 7.2 percent in 2014 and fell almost twice as fast as the overall rate.
The unemployment rate for veterans of all generations last year was 4.6 percent — lower than the national rate.
In Ohio, the unemployment rate for 817,000 veterans living in the state was 3.3 percent.
While the statistics may not paint a complete picture of the challenges facing younger veterans who suffer from high rates of physical and psychological injuries and other negative effects of combat, they indicate the situation for vets is not as bad as some politicians would like the public to think.
But veterans issues are “just too juicy of a target” for politicians to resist, “even if their rhetoric doesn’t match reality,” said Bryan Marshall, a political science professor at Miami University, who added that presidential candidates are getting a “two-fer” when they bring up veterans issues.
“They’re showing their concern for the economy, and their concern for veterans at the same time. Those are powerful issues that still resonate with voters,” Marshall said.
Paul Lara, a Gulf War veteran who was on active duty during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991, said he resents campaign speeches in which the candidates imply that they “feel my pain.”
“When you look at the presidential candidates today, not one is a veteran,” Lara said. “They’ve never been in the military, so they don’t know what it’s like to go through that, get out and then — after you’ve been in war, and served your country — find out it’s hard to get a job.”
Lara, who works as a cook for a food-and-beverage contractor for Sinclair Community College, was exploring new opportunities during his lunch break Wednesday at a job fair hosted by the school.
His timing couldn’t have been better, according to Danile Semsel, director of veterans employment services for Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley.
Semsel, himself a 25-year veteran, said he’s seen a dramatic decline in unemployment for veterans in the Dayton area. He attributes that development to the region’s recent economic growth spurt, highlighted by the arrival of the Fuyao glass plant in Moraine and Procter & Gamble’s multi-brand distribution center in Union, both of which are in the process of hiring hundreds of workers.
“The boom in industry here has created a lot of opportunity, and many of those jobs are veteran-friendly,” Semsel said.
He said the veterans he has helped connect with employers bring with them a broad range of skills from their military service and have found good-paying jobs ranging from forklift operators and truck drivers to human resources and information technology professionals.
“The nice part is that these companies are not only recognizing that these veterans bring a lot of talent to the market, they’re hiring veterans,” Semsel said.
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