Veterans and nonveterans face about equal unemployment rates

A statewide effort to find employment for job seeking military veterans has surpassed its goals, chipping away at a problem that’s just as bad, if not worse, for veterans than for the general population.

Population surveys over the past five years show estimates of unemployment are about equal for veterans and nonveterans alike in Maine, while the state itself did better than most for the percentage of job seeking veterans unable to find work.

Figures from the American Community Survey’s five-year survey (2010-2014) estimate that rates of unemployment were not much different in Maine across two different age groups for that period, with veterans between 55 and 64 years facing a slightly higher rate.

By far, the bulk of the labor force for both veterans and nonveterans is in the age range of 35 to 54.

Maine is also in the middle of the pack for the share of veterans who are not in the labor force, with an estimated 11 percent of veterans between the ages of 18 and 64 not looking for work (the vast majority between the ages 55 and 64).

That is not the case for the nonveteran population, where the number of people not in the labor force was much higher between the ages of 35 and 54.

The statewide Hire-A-Vet campaign that launched in September placed 185 veterans in jobs as of Monday, surpassing a goal of finding work for 100 veterans.

Updated: Julie Rabinowitz, spokeswoman for the Maine Department of Labor, said it’s worth noting that there’s a general skills gap between the veteran and nonveteran populations.

“Particularly when we look at the 18-34 category, veterans by virtue of their service have very specific and valuable workplace skills, and that is not necessarily the case with non-veteran population, who may be in various stages of education and training themselves, with varying levels of work experience,” Rabinowitz wrote in an email. “Veterans also must have their [high school] diploma or GED, and that would also not be the case with 100 percent of the general population.”

While those skills are a benefit, she wrote that there are barriers to employment for veterans, some driven by misperceptions and stigma about post-traumatic stress disorder. Veterans also benefit from training in how to sell their skills to civilian employers, Rabinowitz wrote.

“The department has learned a great deal from this campaign that will be used to assist our employment activities for other undertapped groups of workers,” she wrote.

Darren Fishell

About Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.