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10 Worst States for Unemployed 9/11 Veterans

As bad as the Great Recession has been for civilians, it's been even tougher on veterans. The jobless recovery for 9/11 veterans -- unemployed servicemen and women who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan -- is much worse than the national average and shockingly bad in a number of states, a new Senate report shows.

Even among all former U.S. military service members, 9/11 veterans have the highest rates of unemployment, according to the latest report from the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee. The numbers are more appalling when measured against the total U.S. workforce. The unemployment rate for 9/11 veterans stood at 10.9 percent at the end of April (the latest date for which data were available) vs. 8.5 percent for the non-veterans, according to the report. (Seasonally adjusted figures put the total U.S. unemployment rate at 9 percent for April.)

May was even more dismal for 9/11 veterans, according to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), when their unemployment rate jumped to more than 12 percent vs. a national average of 9.1 percent. "[The unemployment rate for 9/11 veterans] generally trends more than three percentage points higher than the national average, and spikes to nearly 20 percent for male veterans ages 18 to 24," says Matt Gallagher, IAVA senior writing manager and a former Army captain, via email.

Work Type and Prejudice Partly to Blame
There are a number of factors contributing to higher unemployment rates for 9/11 veterans, the Senate report says. Perhaps the biggest contributor is that the vets were more likely to be working in mining, construction, manufacturing and other sectors of the economy that were hardest hit by the recession.

But that's only partly borne out by the list below. True, Michigan has the highest unemployment rate for 9/11 veterans, for example, and it has one of the highest overall jobless rates, too. However, California, Florida, Mississippi, Rhode Island and South Carolina all suffer from double-digit unemployment and yet none of them are among the top 10 worst states for jobless 9/11 veterans.

Here are the figures for the states with the highest rates of unemployed 9/11 veterans, according to the Senate report. For comparison, total state unemployment rates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics are in parentheses. In many states the unemployment rate for 9/11 veterans is three times higher than the state's overall level.

  1. Michigan 29.4 percent (10.3)
  2. Indiana 23.6 percent (8.2)
  3. Minnesota 22.9 percent (6.6)
  4. Montana 20.1 percent (7.3)
  5. Tennessee 20 percent (9.7)
  6. Kansas 17.2 percent (6.6)
  7. Vermont 16.8 percent (5.4)
  8. Connecticut 15.5 percent (9.1)
  9. Nevada 15.2 percent (12.1)
  10. New York 15.2 percent (7.9)
Another factor contributing to the dispiriting data are higher rates of disability among 9/11 veterans, the report notes. Advances in medicine save more veterans' lives than ever before, but that's also led to an increase in people who are unable to work because of service-related trauma. Additionally, men have been more likely than women to have lost jobs due to the recession, and of the 2.5 million 9/11 veterans, more than 80 percent are men, according to the report.

Prejudice also plays a role in 9/11 veteran unemployment, says Gallagher. Hiring veterans is a smart business move, given the work ethics, leadership skills and technological skills young men and women returning from combat possess, he says. "Unfortunately, many of our members have reported encountering vet stigmas during interviews with potential employers," Gallagher says. "The 'crazy vet' stereotype is unfair and inaccurate, and not representative at all of the best and the brightest that have fought these wars."

Whatever the reasons behind the shameful unemployment data, some estimates say the economy won't get back to full employment until 2020. It looks to be an even harder, longer slog for the 9/11 veterans.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Joshuashearn.
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