Business and Economy
5:30 pm
Thu January 12, 2012

Veteran Unemployment Remains High

The last of the U-S troops are now returning from Iraq.

Once home they’re likely to end up joining thousands of other veterans looking for work in a bleak job market.

Despite government incentives to get companies to hire vets, unemployment among vets is still higher than civilians.

The youngest veterans struggle the most.

Twenty-two year old Courtney Selig went into the military to better herself.

"I joined for educational purposes. I wasn't able to afford college on my own and I knew that by joining the service there were things like the GI Bill that could pay for my school."

Selig, like the other men and women who went to Iraq and Afghanistan were soldiers with purpose, necessary personnel, even heroes. Back home, they're just like everyone else.

" So when you come back and you’re not necessarily needed and you are actually fighting to find a job, it's really hard to get a grasp on that concept."

While unemployment has steadily risen for vets overall since the beginning of the recession, nationwide soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan face an 11.5-percent unemployment rate.

In addition, nearly one million veterans will be entering the workforce over the next five years

Finding work has already been a challenge, for the National Guard Troops of the 197th fires brigade.

When those reservists returned to New Hampshire in September, a staggering number were looking for work.

"The initial report that we had from them that between those who were unemployed,or considered themselves marginally employed, underemployed Initially we were looking at as high as 34 percent."

That's Jim Goss, with the defense department program called Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve.

The program is helping unemployed reservists find jobs.

He’s says since then only a small percentage have found work.

He says typically the unemployment rate,  among reservists in New Hampshire, is about 16 percent.

For other public sector employees, it's five.

Daisy Wojewoda is with the Deployment Cycle Support Program, a statewide military civilian partnership that offers transitional support to veterans.  

She says there are several reasons it’s difficult for veterans to find jobs.

“The jobs aren’t out there, there are employers who are very reluctant to hire a guardsman because they know they may deploy again.”

Further, Wojewoda says the majority of returning soldiers were very young when they joined up, meaning they have little to no work or college history, but are competing with civilians who do. 

"They gain a whole bunch of skill and experience with leadership and security and various technical areas during the deployment, however it’s hard to translate those into the civilian world.”

Courtney Selig saw that firsthand.

 "I don't have a college degree. So when it came time to find jobs you really had to pursue them. And you had to say, I know I don't necessarily have the qualifications you are looking for, but I have that experience. And you really have to put yourself out there."

In November, President Obama signed two tax credits into law aimed at encouraging employers to hire veterans both with and without disabilities.

Jim Goss with Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, says it's too early to tell whether the credits have been or will be effective.

Iraqi Veteran Courtney Selig managed to get civilian work when she came back in 2010

but she says adjusting to a job without her fellow guardsmen was a challenge.

" to try to find employment elsewhere with a whole different group of people was really difficult. I didn't know what to talk to them about, I didn't know how to act around them. I felt like the odd man out."

She’s now back to work but is again working for the military, helping other soldiers find work. But even that position ends next fall.