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Texas' veteran jobless rate 7.2 percent
The United States Department of Labor recently released the national unemployment rate for veterans, coming in at 7.5 percent for all veterans and 10.3 percent for Gulf War-era II veterans, who have served since 2001.
The numbers for Texas are slightly different, with an overall veterans rate of 7.2 percent and 13.5 percent for those who served since 2001.
Duncan McGhee, public information officer for the Texas Veterans Commission, said the state of Texas is fairing better with veteran unemployment than in other states.
"We are doing better across the board with all veterans groups, in terms of employment for veterans, than just about any other state," McGhee.
One reason for the state maintaining its unemployment rate better than others, McGhee said, is because of the state's veterans' commission.
"Texas is very unique in that it maintains the veterans' employment group under the same roof with the claims, education; virtually all of the veteran-related services are housed under one umbrella," McGhee said. "We are the only state that is like that. Other states refer to this as the 'Texas model' where we have all that under one roof."
Veterans who contact the organization for help with unemployment, McGhee said, are able to receive assistance almost immediately because all of the networks are located within the same building.
The commission, according to its website, texas-vet erans.com, is a different entity than the Department of Veterans Affairs because it "is the state advocate for Texas veterans, their families and survivors. The Texas Veterans Commission staff and Veterans County Service Officers assist with filing claims for VA compensation, pensions, educational assistance, home loans, insurance, and other benefits."
It also has 170 counselors in the state that reach into 90 workforce centers in 75 cities, McGhee said.
The city of Frisco held a career fair for veterans at the Discovery Center on Wednesday. Dewey Fambry, a resident of The Colony and member of various veterans' organizations including The American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars USA, said with veterans programs and events like the Frisco career fair and with all of the jobs in the state, he finds is "a little bit befuddling as to why unemployment is as high as it is."
Bob Bourbon, marketing manager at TsiCorp and former commander of The Colony American Legion Post, said one reason for the unemployment rate of veterans may be due in part to the enlistment of service members ending near the beginning of recent economic turmoil in the country.
"With no real job prospects waiting, many stayed an additional enlistment (usually four years)," Bourbon said in an email. "With back-to-back rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan, these service members decided to leave the service ... with the economy only starting to recover; there wasn't sufficient work to employ the numbers leaving."
Bourbon also said that the skillset of service members may have played a role in the unemployment rate.
"The service members leaving usually had blue-collar skills that they were trained for in the military," he said. "The exception to that rule would be for the combat-related fields. Although the military may train truck drivers, the number of available, vacant positions could not keep pace with the number of service members leaving the service."
Through the veterans' commission, McGhee said he has recently seen a shift in the job market's approach to veterans, and the type of job industries interested in service members is beginning to branch out.
"Industries that had historically worked with veterans' groups, you could take a look at Boeing for example ... certain security organizations were very receptive," McGhee said. "Now what we find is the message is getting out that veterans are really good candidates for all industries, so we're finding the market segment -- for receptive industries really just runs the gamut; there is no barrier any longer and that's really just happened with in the last seven or eight months."
Despite the success the veterans' commission has seen, Bourbon said that unemployment for veterans may also be due in part to a lack of higher education, as many service members enter the military directly out of high school.
"The largest percentage of unemployed veterans are those with no formal education, and little possibility for getting that education benefits, because they did not choose to use the military saving plans," he said. "For the young men who do have a college education, the transition is a bit easier but in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, the possibilities are limited because of the size of the available labor pool versus the available positions requiring higher education."
With the War in Iraq formally declared over, the future remains uncertain as veterans trickle back from their military enlistments.
McGhee said the U.S. government is looking to make cuts for troop levels over the next five years.
"They're looking to reduce the Army by somewhere between 10 and 15 percent, which means that, that should be somewhere in the 50,000 to 75,000 [range] for the Army and for the Marines, that means anywhere between 10,000 and 30,000 over the course of the next five years," he said.
McGhee also said that over the course of the next year, reductions from all branches of the military will go into effect. The Army will see a reduction in about 2,000 troops; the Marines will see a reduction in 4,800 service members; the Navy will see 3,000 troops reduced, and the Air force will be reduced by 4,000 troops. In addition to the cuts, he said about 250,000 service members will "naturally separate" every year, as their enlistment or their tour of duty comes to an end. Attempts to substantiate this information online were unsuccessful.
"There will be more competition between veterans and in between veterans and non-veterans, and we see some challenges looming before us because now that the Iraq War has come to an end and as we're winding down the war in Afghanistan, many of those individuals will be coming out and will be downsized," he said. "As we look out over the horizon -- state organizations like us have to be prepared for meeting that head on."
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