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Youngest veterans struggle most with unemployment, data shows

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Tuesday is Veterans Day, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released its October jobs numbers. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how veterans have fared in terms of unemployment lately.

The overall U.S. jobless rate dropped to 5.8 percent last month, reaching its lowest level in six years. That’s encouraging news, but veterans have experienced even better numbers.

The non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for former service members fell to 4.5 percent in October, dropping to its lowest point since August 2008.

Veteran unemployment reached an Obama administration high in January 2011, when the non-seasonally adjusted jobless rate for that segment reached nearly 10 percent, according to the bureau’s data. Since then, the rate has generally declined, always staying below the unemployment rate for the overall workforce.

Despite those trends, the data shows that post-9/11 veterans in particular have struggled find work more than the general workforce and more than troops who served in previous eras of conflict. About 9 percent of former service members from Iraq and Afghanistan were unemployed in 2013, compared to about 6.6 percent of veterans overall and 7.2 percent of non-veterans.

This year, post-9/11 veterans continued to struggle with unemployment relative to veterans overall and the general workforce, even though the jobless rate for that segment has declined. The graph below demonstrates the trends.

The bureau published a report on Monday showing that younger veterans struggle considerably more with unemployment than those who are older. The jobless rate for former troops between ages 18 and 25 last year was about 21 percent on average, while the overall rate for veterans was barely above 6 percent during that time.

Monster Worldwide, the company that founded the employment Web sites and, conducted a survey this fall that sheds light on what troops are experiencing as they try to find work in today’s job market.

Two-thirds of veterans who responded to the survey said their top challenge is communicating their military skills in ways that employers can understand and utilize.

Nonetheless, only 13 percent of veteran respondents in the survey said they lacked confidence in finding work, compared to 26 percent last year. Those numbers suggest that former troops have grown increasingly confident in their ability to land jobs despite any communication challenges they may face.

Additionally, more than two-thirds of employer respondents said they have unique talent needs that former troops would be more qualified to fill than non-veterans, which may help explain the growing optimism among job-seeking veterans, as well as the relatively low unemployment rates for former service members overall.

Employers said the top five skills that veterans bring to civilian jobs include self-discipline, teamwork, attention to detail, respect and leadership, in that order.

The survey focused on veterans who have been out of the military for less than five years and active-duty troops who plan to leave the service within the next year. As for employers, the analysis covered those who have hired at least one veteran in the past year.