Veterans unemployment rises in Texas, falls nationally

DALLAS (TIP): The unemployment rate of military veterans rose in Texas last year, showing it’s still tough for returning soldiers to find a job even as the economy improves.Rates are highest among veterans who have returned home since the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

In Texas, 19,000 of those veterans, or 8.7 percent, were out of work last year, according to information released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s up from 8.3 percent in 2012 and much higher than the 2013 average unemployment rate of 6.3 percent for all Texans. A similar trend was seen for all veterans in 2013: While the unemployment rate in Texas rose slightly, it declined nationally.

Andy Nguyen, a former U.S. Marine and president of Dallas nonprofit Honor Courage Commitment, thinks part of the reason for the increase in Texas is that more veterans are returning to Texas or moving here to look for work.”I have seen more companies be more receptive about hiring veterans,” said Nguyen, whose nonprofit recruits, educates and mentors new veterans. “It’s getting better each year, but there’s still a huge gap and a long way to go.”

The U.S. unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans edged down to 9 percent in 2013, from 9.9 percent in 2012. However the number of unemployed vets was the same at 205,000 as more veterans entered the workforce. Also, last year’s rate was well above the nation’s overall unemployment rate of 6.7 percent for 2013. When Glenn Roper retired as an Army lieutenant colonel last August without another job, he and his family sat down to make some tough decisions.

He gave up his gym membership, his wife cut manicures and pedicures, his two teenagers didn’t play youth sports, and they ate out less. Roper landed a job in late October as an inventory analyst with a Dallas wireless equipment provider after searching for six months. He credits networking through LinkedIn and Nguyen’s group with helping him get hired. Still, he said it was a major transition – and one that many veterans struggle with. “You have to get into the corporate life,” Roper, 49, said. “You have to learn a new language. You have to learn to sell yourself. I had to go get a business suit.”

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Women, younger vets
Women and younger veterans have fared the worst in the job market. “Women have a lot more to deal with – they’re often mothers with families to maintain – and more of our recent veterans are women,” said Jim Reid, president of Momentum Texas Inc., a Dallas nonprofit that helps new veterans find a job or start a business. “People returning from Afghanistan and Iraq need down time. A lot of them tend to be very young with no employment experience.”

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