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Young vets joining unemployment lines


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July 26, 2006


Young vets joining unemployment lines


By Katherine Hutt Scott

Gannett News Service


WASHINGTON — Young veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are having a harder time finding a job than their peers who didn’t serve in the military.


Last year, about one in six veterans between 20 and 24 was jobless, nearly double the rate for nonveterans their age. It was brighter in the second quarter of this year, when young vets had an 11.2 percent jobless rate, but that was still higher than the 8 percent for nonvets their age and more than twice the overall unemployment rate.


Labor and veterans officials are surveying young vets to try to find out why. But experts have some theories:


•Some veterans are entering the work force for the first time and aren’t adept at explaining their military skills to civilian employers.


•Some who saw combat in Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, which makes it difficult for them to work and makes employers leery of hiring them.


•Permanent jobs that offer middle-class wages and benefits are scarcer these days in some regions.


“With the prestige of a combat veteran, I thought I’d hold a little more weight than the average high school or college graduate,” said Jason Seidel of Battle Creek, Mich., 25, who served one year in Iraq during his four-year Army stint. He has spent two fruitless months searching for a decent-paying job that doesn’t require a college degree.


“The reality is there’s no jobs there at all,” he said. “With all the factory cutbacks, everyone’s scrambling to get what they can.”


Historically, veterans have had a lower unemployment rate than the population as a whole. Employers generally want to hire veterans, according to Charles Ciccolella, assistant secretary for veterans employment and training with the Department of Labor.


“They’re disciplined, and they come to work on time,” Ciccolella said. “They’ve got leadership and management [skills].”


But young vets have had higher unemployment rates than their nonvet peers every year since 1990, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


To help returning vets, the VA offers a three-day workshop called the Transition Assistance Program that includes training in résumé writing, interviewing and salary negotiations.


Veterans also can check in with one of 3,500 government-run employment offices across the country that give priority to veterans for job training and placement.


Dustin Dockins of Rockford, Ill., a staff sergeant with the Army Reserve who returned from a year of non-combat duty in Afghanistan in May 2005, found landing a job tougher than he had anticipated.


“There was a lot of stress trying to get it all lined up,” said Dockins, who was 25 when he began looking.


After almost three months, he took a civilian job as administrator of an Army Reserve unit in Rockford.


“It’s incredibly discouraging, and frankly, it’s a betrayal,” said labor professor Bob Bruno of the University of Illinois at Chicago. “There’s a strong consensus that if you put your life on the line with some kind of service for your country, you should be rewarded with the opportunity to earn the American dream.”


For more information: U.S. Department of Labor, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee






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