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Congressional Testimony

House Committee on Veterans' Affairs
Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity
April 15, 2010
Statement of Philip L. Rones
Deputy Commissioner,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor
Madam Chair and Members of the Subcommittee:

Thank you for this opportunity to discuss the state of veterans' employment. In general, the employment situation among veterans overall does not differ much from that of nonveterans with similar demographic characteristics. However, age and other differences affect labor force status. It is important to consider these factors when comparing the employment situation of veterans to those of nonveterans, or when comparing different groups of veterans, because these groups differ in their demographic compositions. For example, recent veterans tend to be under the age of 35, and younger workers — whether veterans or nonveterans — are more likely to be unemployed than older workers.

Information on the employment and unemployment status of veterans is obtained from the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 households that is the source of the national unemployment rate. Basic labor market data about veterans are collected each month. Additional data on service-connected disability, Reserve or National Guard status, and service in a combat or war zone are now collected once a year. I would like to mention that a table showing veterans' and nonveterans' labor force status was recently added to the monthly Employment Situation news release.

In the CPS, veterans are defined as men and women who have previously served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces and who were civilians at the time they were surveyed. Veterans are grouped according to the era during which they served. Veterans who served in more than one wartime period are classified in the most recent one. Those who served during a wartime period and another period are classified in the wartime period.

In 2009, there were about 22 million veterans among the civilian noninstitutional population ages 18 and over. About half (51 percent) of them last served during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam era. Virtually all of those veterans are age 55 and older, and only 3 percent are women.

Almost 2 million veterans served during Gulf War era II (September 2001 forward), accounting for nearly 1 in 10 of all veterans. These veterans are young — nearly two-thirds are under the age of 35. Also far more are women — 18 percent — than were veterans of earlier eras. These younger veterans also have much different levels of education than do nonveterans of the same age. For example, among 25 to 34 year olds, veterans are far less likely to be high school dropouts (2 percent compared to 12 percent for nonveterans in 2008), but they are also less likely to have received a bachelor's degree (19 percent versus 33 percent). That college graduation gap nearly disappears among veterans in the 35 to 44 age group.

For most age and sex groups, employment status did not vary much based on veteran status. However, male veterans age 18 to 24 were somewhat more likely to be employed than were their nonveteran counterparts. Veterans of Gulf War era II were more likely to be employed than were veterans from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam era, but that simply reflects the fact that so many veterans from these eras have reached retirement ages.

Veterans of Gulf War era II who served in combat or war zones had employment rates that were similar to those of veterans of the era who did not serve in combat or war zones, according to August 2009 data from the CPS veterans supplement survey. Noncombat veterans of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam era had a somewhat higher share of their population in employment than did those who had served in a combat or war zone, but that is likely the result of the combat veterans being somewhat older.

The Committee also asked about unemployment rates for female versus male veterans. In 2009, there was no statistically significant difference between the unemployment rates for female and male veterans, as the rates were 8.0 and 8.1 percent, respectively. The jobless rates for female and male veterans of Gulf War era II were not statistically different either, 11.5 percent versus 9.9 percent. (The standard error for the unemployment rate of female Gulf War-era II veterans is large because of the relatively small size of this group.)

Recent press reports have noted the high unemployment rate for 18 to 24 year old male Gulf War era II veterans, 21.6 percent in 2009. This is slightly higher than the rate for male nonveterans of that age. The jobless rates for both groups have about doubled since 2007, reflecting the impact of the recession. A sharp rise also occurred in the unemployment rates for older male Gulf War era II veterans, although their rates are lower than those of their young counterparts.

In August 2009, about 2.8 million veterans, or 13 percent of the total, reported having a service-connected disability. Veterans with a service-connected disability are assigned a disability rating by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Ratings range from 0 to 100 percent, in increments of 10 percentage points, depending on the severity of the condition. According to the CPS, about 4 in 10 disabled veterans reported a disability rating of less than 30 percent, while about 1 in 4 had a rating of 60 percent or higher.

Among veterans who served during Gulf War eras I and II (anytime since August 1990), about 20 percent reported having a service-connected disability in August 2009. The unemployment rate of disabled veterans from the Gulf War eras was 10.4 percent, not statistically different from the rate for nondisabled veterans (9.7 percent). But the effect of their disability tends to reveal itself in employment measures, more so than unemployment. Of the disabled Gulf War era veterans, 71 percent were employed, compared with 82 percent of nondisabled veterans from this period. (This discussion of service-connected disability looks at Gulf War eras I and II combined in order to increase the statistical reliability of the estimates.)

Veterans are more likely to work for the federal government than are nonveterans. In August 2009, almost 20 percent of employed veterans with a service-connected disability worked for the federal government, as did about 8 percent of veterans without a service-connected disability. By comparison, only 2 percent of nonveterans worked for the federal government. Younger male Gulf War II era veterans (those 25 to 34) are more likely than their nonveteran counterparts to work in service occupations and in construction, maintenance, and production jobs, and less likely to work in professional jobs and in sales and office occupations. Veterans in the 35-to-44 age group are more likely to be professionals and managers than their younger counterparts.

Finally, I would like to note that Gulf War-era II veterans who were current or past members of the Reserve or National Guard had an unemployment rate of 10.6 percent in August 2009, compared with a rate of 13.8 percent for those who had not been members. That difference is largely related to the older age profile of the Reserve and Guard veterans.

My colleagues and I now would be glad to answer your questions.


Employment Situation of Veterans 2009
Philip L. Rones
Deputy Commissioner
Bureau of Labor Statistics
April 15, 2010

Where do the data come from?

  • The data are collected as part of the Current Population Survey (CPS). The CPS is a monthly survey of about 60,000 households.
  • The CPS is a joint program between the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Census Bureau.
  • It is the source of civilian employment and unemployment data, including the national unemployment rate.
  • Questions are included in the survey that identify veterans and their period of service (when they served).

Who are veterans?

  • Veterans are men and women who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces and were civilians at the time of the survey. Members of the Reserve and National Guard are counted as veterans if they have ever been called to active duty.
  • Nonveterans are men and women who have never served on active duty in the U.S. military.

Periods of Service

  • Labor force statistics are available by these periods of service:
    • Gulf War era II = Sept. 2001- present
    • Gulf War era I = Aug. 1990 - Aug. 2001
    • Vietnam era = Aug. 1964 - April 1975
    • Korean War = July 1950 - Jan. 1955
    • World War II = Dec. 1941- Dec. 1946
    • Other service periods = All other time periods
    • "Other service periods" are the dates between war periods:
    • May 1975 - July 1990, Jan. 1947 - June 1950,
    • Feb. 1955 - July 1964, Nov. 1941 or earlier
    • NOTE: The CPS monthly survey does not identify where a veteran served.

Data on veterans are available monthly from the Current Population Survey (CPS)

  • Veterans data are published monthly in the Employment Situation news release.
  • Additional tables are available from BLS on topics such as:
    • Age, sex, race, and Hispanic ethnicity
    • Occupation and industry
    • Full or part-time status
    • Class of worker (private, government, self-employed, unpaid family worker)
    • Duration of unemployment

Additional data are available from the veterans supplement

  • Collected every 2 years since 1985; conducted annually beginning in 2009. (August 2009, July 2010, August 2011, August 2012).
  • Co-sponsored by the Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
  • Provides additional information about veterans such as presence and rating of service-connected disability, Reserve or National Guard status, and service in a combat or war zone.

Employment Situation of Veterans

Characteristics of veterans

Chart 1. Of the 22 million veterans, the largest group is from WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam era

Pie Chart Show the largest group of veterans are from WWI, Koren and Vietnam-era veterans

NOTE: Gulf War-era II veterans served anywhere on active duty since September 2001. Gulf War-era I veterans served anywhere between August 1990 and August 2001.

SOURCE: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, annual averages 2009




Chart 2. Most veterans are men

Bar Chart SHowing that Most Veterans are men

SOURCE: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, annual averages 2009




Chart 3. Overall, veterans are older than nonveterans

Bar Chart Showing

SOURCE: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, annual averages 2009




Chart 4. Most Gulf War-era II veterans are under 35 years old

Bar Chart Showing Most Gulf War-era II veterans are under 35 years old

SOURCE: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, annual averages 2009




Chart 5. Among men, veterans age 18-24 are somewhat more likely than nonveterans to be employed

Bar Chart Showing Among men, veterans age 18-24 are somewhat more likely than nonveterans to be employed

SOURCE: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, annual averages 2009




Chart 6. Women of similar ages are employed at about the same rates

Chart Showing Women of similar ages are employed at about the same rates

SOURCE: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, annual averages 2009




Chart 7. WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam-era veterans tend to have lower employment rates, largely reflecting their age

Bar Chart Showing WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam-era veterans tend to have lower employment rates, largely reflecting their age

SOURCE: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, annual averages 2009




Chart 8. Employment varies little by combat status

Bar Chart Showing Employment varies little by combat status

SOURCE: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, annual averages 2009




Chart 9. Male veterans and female veterans have similar unemployment rates by period of service

Bar Chart Showing Male veterans and female veterans have similar unemployment rates by period of service

NOTE: The unemployment rates of male and female Gulf War-era II veterans are similar. The unemployment rate for female Gulf War-era II veterans is based on a relatively small sample. Small samples have large standard errors.

SOURCE: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, annual averages 2009




Chart 10. Among veterans who served sometime since August 1990, there is little difference in the unemployment rates of those with or without a service-connected disability

Bar Chart Showing Among veterans who served sometime since August 1990, there is little difference in the unemployment rates of those with or without a service-connected disability

SOURCE: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, August 2009 veterans supplement




Chart 11. Among veterans who served sometime since August 1990, those with a service-connected disability are less likely to be employed than those without a service-connected disability

Bar Chart Showing Among veterans who served sometime since August 1990, those with a service-connected disability are less likely to be employed than those without a service-connected disability

SOURCE: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, August 2009 veterans supplement




Chart 12. 1 of 5 employed disabled veterans works for the Federal government

Bar Chart Showing 1 of 5 employed disabled veterans works for the Federal government

NOTE: "Other workers" includes persons employed in agriculture, the unincorporated self-employed, and unpaid family workers. Totals may not add to 100 percent because of rounding.

SOURCE: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, August 2009 veterans supplement




Chart 13. Current or past members of the Reserve or National Guard have higher employment rates and lower unemployment rates than veterans who never were members of the Reserve or National Guard

Bar Chart Showing Current or past members of the Reserve or National Guard have higher employment rates and lower unemployment rates than veterans who never were members of the Reserve or National Guard

 

SOURCE: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, August 2009 veterans supplement

Further information is available at: http://www.bls.gov/cps/demographics.htm#vets or by calling (202) 691-6378