There’s been some good, but quiet, news lately for America’s veterans: The job picture for vets is improving.
In March, the U.S. Labor Department reported that the unemployment rate for younger veterans — those who have served since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — fell from 12.1 percent in 2011 to 9.9 percent in 2012.
Last week, the department reported that the May rate for unemployment among those veterans was down to 7.3 percent, compared with 12.7 percent during May 2012. And the jobless rate for veterans of all generations was lower still, at 6.6 percent.
Part of that can be attributed to the improving U.S. economy. Another big piece is the initiatives of the federal government and private sector to put emphasis on hiring vets.
Congress approved tax credits for companies that hire veterans and also required the military to provide transition training to those leaving the service. Many private companies have announced efforts to hire more vets in the past two years.
On Wednesday, another effort will be front and center in Omaha. More than 60 employers are scheduled to take part in the latest “Hiring Our Heroes” job fair for veterans and military spouses. It’s one in a series of more than 500 job fairs that have been held around the state and nation.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched this national campaign in 2011 with the goal of helping vets and military spouses find meaningful employment. So far, more than 18,400 veterans and spouses have landed jobs directly from these events. U.S. Chamber officials say an additional 90,000 people have been hired as part of the campaign, and more than 900 businesses have pledged to hire a total of 230,000.
In Omaha, the job fair is being held in partnership with the Nebraska Department of Labor, the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the American Legion and others.
“Nebraska’s employers, along with countless organizations, continue to stand behind our veterans,” said Cathy Lang, director of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development and commissioner of the Nebraska Department of Labor.
That’s one reason Omaha was ranked fourth in the country on a new list of top military-friendly cities. The magazine G.I. Jobs put Omaha behind only San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Houston in rankings based on criteria that included military-friendly employers, schools, veteran-owned businesses and the cost of living.
This isn’t the first time that Omaha has been honored for its support of veterans. In 2011, the Association of Defense Communities selected Omaha as its “Defense Community of the Year,” and USAA and Military Times placed Omaha among the top 10 cities for military retirees to launch second careers.
Among the nation’s approximately 22 million veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs counts about 141,000 Nebraska men and women and 238,000 Iowans.
With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and their service elsewhere, these veterans have given a lot for their country. They bring a lot to prospective employers.
Studies have shown that vets show up on Day One with many of the qualities employers desire — they are team players with proven leadership ability, focus on goals and an admirable work ethic.
The good news is that unemployment among veterans has begun to fall. The better news is that there’s a chance to lower the rate even more.