On March 18, 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a news release providing the most up-to-date facts and figures on national veteran employment. Using 2014 employment data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), the report highlights decreased unemployment rates for veterans over the past year. Specifically, the unemployment rate for Gulf War-era II veterans (all veterans serving on active duty in the U.S Armed Forces since September 2001) has dropped from 9% in 2013 to 7.2% in 2014. The report also shows decreased unemployment rates for all veterans from 2013 to 2014. Overall, the 2014 figures seem to suggest a gradual improvement in veteran employment.
Although the updated employment figures were made public as of mid-March, contractors have yet to receive an update on potential implications for the VEVRAA hiring benchmark (41 CFR 60-300.45). As you may recall, the veteran hiring benchmark is re-evaluated on an annual basis as veteran employment figures are updated using data from the CPS. Specifically, the VEVRAA hiring benchmark is set as the current national percentage of veterans in the civilian labor force. Based on the updated employment data from BLS, the hiring benchmark is estimated to drop slightly in 2015. Lowering the hiring benchmark would seem to suggest that veteran employment is on the rise. Using the 2014 data provided in the BLS report, DCI set out to determine whether or not veteran employment is, in fact, on the rise. Below is a summary of findings followed by general conclusions:
National Civilian Labor Force (Total of population who is either employed or unemployed but actively seeking work in specified area)
Expected 2015 VEVRAA Hiring Benchmark
National Unemployment Rates
National Employment Figures
National Employment – Population Ratio (Ratio of number employed to total number in the civilian labor force)
Within the past year, national unemployment rates have decreased overall. This holds true for veterans, non-veterans, and the nation as a whole. The civilian labor force has increased slightly overall from 2013 to 2014, meaning there are more individuals who are either employed or who are unemployed but actively seeking work in a specified area; however, when looking specifically at the veteran civilian labor force, the number has actually dropped slightly over the year. This indicates a decrease in the number of veterans who were either employed or unemployed but seeking work from 2013 to 2014. The exact reasoning behind the decline would be difficult to pinpoint. One possibility is that fewer unemployed veterans were actively seeking work in 2014 (e.g., young veterans returning from active duty and beginning college or pursuing other interests instead of immediately seeking employment). In addition, the CPS data suggests that from 2013 to 2014, there was a slight drop in the number of employed veterans. Because the VEVRAA hiring benchmark is set according to the national percentage of veterans in the civilian labor force (and not according to veteran unemployment rates), the benchmark is expected to drop slightly for 2015. Logically, this would seem to suggest that veteran employment is on the rise (and vice versa). In reality, though, annual adjustments will not, on their own, give enough information to make these kinds of conclusions. Evaluating the ongoing success of veteran employment efforts will require a more in-depth look at all of the factors involved.
By Rachel Gabbard, M.A., Associate Consultant and Jeff Henderson, M.P.S., HR Analyst