Jobless Rate Soars for GWOT Veterans — Women Hardest Hit

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

unemployed female veteransThe unemployment rate among post 9/11 military veterans has soared, according to the latest release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The jobless rate for GWOT veterans, is up to 11.7 percent – a sharp increase from the 9.9 percent figure in December, and an even bigger increase from the 9.1 percent unemployment rate the same cohort posted just a year ago. The jobless rate for these individuals is also much higher than it is for the nation as a whole, which is 7.9 percent.

The overall jobless rate also increased in the February jobs report, from 7.7 percent, according to the Bureau.

The unemployment rate among women veterans of the Global War on Terror – 17.5 percent — is significantly higher than the unemployment rate among men, which is 10.1 percent. The unemployment rate among women GWOT veterans actually fell slightly, though, while unemployment among male GWOT vets increased from 7.7 to 10.5 percent over the same period.

Why are Women Veterans Lagging Men in the Labor Market?

As with so many things, the answer is, it’s complicated.

First, the data show clearly that women are far less likely to leave the service and enter the labor force than men. The labor force participation among women post-9/11 veterans is 70.4 percent – down from 72 percent the prior year.  This is substantially below the male participation rate of 83.7 percent. Women are more likely to pursue other options besides employment, including stay-at-home motherhood, becoming full-time students, or self-employment not captured in unemployment statistics.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, women are also significantly more likely to be collecting benefits for a service-related disability rated at 50 percent or more than men. Of the population of women receiving VA disability compensation, 34.5 percent of them are rated at 50 percent or higher, compared to 26.2 percent of men.

A Darwinian analyst might hypothesize that the difference between male and female unemployment rates in this demographic is a function of biology: A woman in this age group who has recently left the service and is not in the work force is still an acceptable mate for many men. Few women, however, would select a jobless male veteran as an acceptable mate.

Men, in short, work because women demand it.

Women are also three times more likely to be single parents than men (11 percent to 4 percent), according to the California Department of Research (citing a 2010 study from the National Center on Family Homelessness.) Furthermore, women in the military are far more likely to divorce than men.

John E. Pickens, executive director of a Veterans Plus, has another explanation: Women don’t carry the same warrior panache in the public eye. “”Typically, folks look at male veterans returning as warriors who we need to honor, and say we need to do what we can for these warriors. Women, unfortunately, don’t carry home that same mantel as a warrior,” says Pickens.

Recently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics began using an updated population model put together by the Veterans Administration. It is possible that the new statistical model includes more veterans who had previously been excluded from the count, and that these newly-included veterans are more likely to be homeless. However, it was not apparent from the BLS release how much of an effect the new statistical model had.

Also, since the sample of GWOT veterans is relatively small, compared to the population as a whole, the unemployment rate among this sample tends to be more volatile, as well.


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