A Golden Age for Veteran Job Seekers

Ten years ago, companies could find quality candidates simply by hanging “help wanted” signs on their windows. But with unemployment at the lowest level in 50 years, companies are expanding their recruiting efforts and taking a particular interest in military veterans. 

Source: ZipRecruiter Internal Data, October 2019

Increased Employer Demand is Improving the Employment Situation for Veterans

While the share of job seekers on ZipRecruiter who are veterans has remained stable at 11%, the share of job postings that explicitly call on veterans to apply rose from 10% in 2016 and 2017 to 17% in 2018 and 2019. Over the past year, the number of job postings listing “military experience” as a desired skill rose 14%. Job postings with veteran-friendly language span a wide range of industries and roles, and can be found in 70% of metro areas. The increase in employer demand for military skills is improving the employment prospects of transitioning veterans.

Unemployment for veterans dipped to 3.5% in 2018, which is the lowest it has been since 2000 and well below its 2011 peak of 9.9%. According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, veteran unemployment stands at 3.1%, as of September 2019, well below the overall unemployment rate of 3.5%.

Unique Challenges Persist for Veteran Job Seekers

Despite expanded opportunities, veteran job seekers often find it challenging to transition to the civilian workforce. It can be difficult for veterans to know which civilian jobs they are qualified for, and for employers to understand how various military skills match civilian job requirements. According to a ZipRecruiter survey of more than 1,300 veteran job seekers conducted earlier this year, one-in-three veterans say that translating their military skills into civilian work is their greatest challenge on the job hunt. 

There can be personal, social, and financial difficulties, too. “The hardest thing for me was losing my identity as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the deep sense of mission and purpose that came with it,” says Adam Weiner, who made the switch from lieutenant commander in a U.S. Navy SEAL Team to business manager in a large corporation.

“No civilian work environment compares with the military in terms of comradery, “ Adam continues. “And for many veterans, leaving the military involves taking a huge financial hit–at least initially. In the military, one gets on-base housing or an untaxed housing allowance, as well as comprehensive healthcare. Many transitioning veterans get sticker shock and see their purchasing power erode when they have to pay for housing out of after-tax income and purchase expensive family health insurance.“

Perhaps because they underestimate the costs of housing and healthcare, and perhaps because they sometimes struggle to know what they should reasonably expect from a civilian job, veterans have historically accepted lower wages in their first post-military job than comparable civilians. 

Employers Increasingly Recognize the Value of Veteran Talent

18% of the employers we surveyed said they have a program specifically aimed at recruiting and retaining veterans. Such programs are a testament to the fact that employers value the skills and experiences veterans bring to the workplace. In a ZipRecruiter survey of 394 employers conducted earlier this year, 21% of employers who currently employ veterans say they perform better than their non-veteran colleagues compared with only 1% who say they underperform. Perseverance and work ethic, skills and experience, and leadership abilities are the main qualities that make veterans attractive job candidates, according to employers. 

Methodology: ZipRecruiter surveyed 394 employers and 3,479 active job seekers, 1,319 of whom identified as veterans of the United States military. “Employers” are defined as ZipRecruiter users who are logged into an employer account and who said they were currently in a position to hire employees at their company at the time of the survey. “Active job seekers” are defined as logged-in, registered users who visited ZipRecruiter’s job search site or actively used the ZipRecruiter job search app during the time the survey was conducted. The survey was conducted from June 12, 2019, to June 26, 2019.

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Julia Pollak

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Julia Pollak is the labor economist at ZipRecruiter. Working with a wider team, she helps employers, job seekers, and students get ahead of the game by gleaning and sharing insights generated from ZipRecruiter data.

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