March 18, 2015 / 5:00 PM / 5 years ago

U.S. military veteran unemployment easing, but still high

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Unemployment rates for U.S. military veterans fell last year, but joblessness among their ranks remains higher than the civilian population, a government report showed on Wednesday.

The unemployment rate among veterans who joined the military after Sept. 11, 2001, fell to an average of 7.2 percent last year from 9 percent in 2013, the Labor Department said in the report.

While the jobless rate has declined from a post-recession peak of 12 percent in 2011, it remains about 1 percentage point above the rate for the civilian population.

“Even as we celebrate the good news in this report, we will continue to deploy this system with every ounce of urgency to make sure all veterans have the opportunity to secure a job that helps them support their families,” Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said in a statement.

The Obama administration and the U.S. Congress have pushed forward an array of measures, including tax credits for companies employing veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Call of Duty Endowment, a non-profit based in Arlington, Virginia, which helps veterans find careers by supporting groups that prepare them for the job market, welcomed the improvement.

Executive director Dan Goldenberg, however, said more work needs to be done, citing a 17.3 percent unemployment rate among male veterans in the 18-24 age group.

“While it’s good to see a slight improvement in overall veteran unemployment rates, young, post-9/11 veterans are still unemployed at a rate almost 50 percent greater than their peers,” said Goldenberg.

Research by Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago economists in 2013 found that veterans deployed overseas for prolonged periods struggled to find work because of the traumas of war, as well as training that did not readily translate into the civilian world.

Among 9/11 military veterans, women continued to bear the brunt of high unemployment, with an 8.5 percent jobless rate last year - down from 9.6 percent in 2013. Unemployment was highest among the 25-44 age group.

While the unemployment rate for men fell to 6.9 percent from 8.8 percent in 2013, it was still above the 6.2 percent rate for the civilian population. The unemployment rate for male veterans aged 25 to 34 was 7.5 percent.

For male veterans 35 and older, the unemployment rate was below 6 percent last year, according to the report.

Employed post-9/11 veterans tended to have similar job profiles to the civilian population, though a higher proportion worked in the public sector last year.

(This story was refiled to change day in first paragraph to Wednesday from Tuesday)

Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by AlAn Crosby

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