Special Populations Data (disability, vets, farmworkers, etc.)
This discussion forum will covers special populations of interest to the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, including disability, veterans, older workers, youth, farmworkers, Native Americans, etc.
Ideas, questions or requests for information may be posed to other members of this Community of Practice, one or more of whom may be able to help you or respond with their own ideas.
User Comments (21)
In May 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will conduct a special supplement to the Current Population Survey (the same survey which supplies the monthly unemployment rates) on disability topics.
This one-time survey of will cover a wide variety of topics from the perspective of individuals (not employers), including the use of and satisfaction with employment programs for persons with disabilities; barriers to employment; and workplace accommodations.
The survey was announced in a Federal Register Notice of October 19, 2011, pp. 64975-6, which can be accessed at www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-10-19/pdf/2011-26966.pdf.
This fairly-comprehensive 200 page overview by Mathematica Policy Research — Disability Data in National Surveys, August 22, 2011 — provides comparative information on numerous Federal surveys of persons with disabilities. Each entity includes information on sample size, the availability of state and local data, the topics covered by the survey, how disability is defined and the scope of the coverage, and many other elements.
To access it, click here: Disability Data in National Surveys.
This publication was funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.
The 2011 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium, produced by the University Of New Hampshire, Institute on Disability, Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability Statistics and Demographics, is the third edition of this publication.
The Compendium is available at 2011 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium (as are the two previous editions).
This 150 page resource, which includes state-specific data, includes sections on employment, earnings, poverty, veterans, Federal spending, international disability statistics, and many other topics. There’s also an excellent glossary which fully explains disability, employment and income-related terms.
Note that Section 3 (Time Trend Population Statistics) also includes considerable employment-related data not covered in Section 2 (Employment).
The U.S. Census Bureau has just issued “Dynamics of Economic Well-Being: Participation in Government Programs, 2004 to 2007 and 2009 — Who Gets Assistance?” (July 2012). The data come from the 2004 and 2008 Panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation and cover calendar years 2004 through 2007 and 2009.
The report examines the participation and characteristics of people who received benefits from any of the major means-tested assistance programs including: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, General Assistance, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program/Food Stamp, Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid and Housing Assistance.
Employment statistics can be found on pp. 12-13 and in all the appendix tables. Some 36 percent of the unemployed received a means-tested benefit for at least one month in 2009 (the latest year available). The unemployed were most likely to receive food stamps —SNAP (21 percent) or Medicaid (16 percent). Those not in the labor force were most likely to receive Medicaid (17 percent) or food stamps (13 percent).
The report is available at Participation in Government Programs
Versions of this report for earlier years are available at Household Economic Studies (P70 series)
The U.S. Census Bureau has released Americans with Disabilities: 2010, based on the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). Persons aged 21 to 64 with disabilities were only about half as likely to be employed as those without disabilities (41 vs. 79 percent). The percentage of those with disabilities who were employed dropped by 4.5 points from 2005 to 2010, although this reduction was no different from those without disabilities.
The report examined disability from multiple perspectives, including whether individuals 15 or older had disability-related problems that made it difficult to remain employed, and whether they were limited in the kind or amount of work they could do (including whether this limitation prevented them from working (end of Table A-1).
Even among persons with disabilities who had earnings, their median monthly earnings were 28 percent less than those without disabilities ($1961 vs. $2724). Among those aged 15 to 64, 25.1 percent of those with disabilities were poor, compared with 14.3 of those who were not (Table A-3).
The report includes a wealth of employment and other data, including the type and severity of disabilities, income, social program participation, health insurance coverage, data on children, and how the population with disabilities is changing after adjusting for the aging of the general population. Because SIPP is a longitudinal survey, the report also includes data on the persistence of employment problems over a two-year period (Figure 5).
Users are cautioned that various tables in this report define the working-age population in three different ways (ages 15-64, 16-64, and 21-64), and should take this into account in drawing conclusions about the data. Note that SIPP data only cover the U.S. civilian non-institutionalized population, and therefore do not include individuals living in health facilities (such data can be obtained from the American Community Survey, for which a link is provided below).
Americans with Disabilities: 2010 and the previous disability reports in this series (the previous one was issued for 2005) are available at Census Bureau Household Economic Studies (P70 series)
Other sources of employment-related data for persons with disabilities include the following. Given varying definitions, the Census Bureau cautions users about comparing disability data across different surveys.
1. Frequently asked questions about disability data
2. Census Bureau’s main disability site
3. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics disability site
4. Census Bureau’s AmericanFactFinder tool to access state and local disability data from the American Community Survey
5. Census Bureau’s Table Creator tool to access state disability data from the Current Population Survey’s Annual Social and Economic Supplement
6. Finally, see the disability entry in the U.S. Employment and Training Administration’s Guide to State and Local Workforce Data
A U.S. Employment and Training Administration-funded study shows several major changes in the likelihood that different groups will receive unemployment insurance (UI), through an investigation of UI receipt over the 1988-2010 period. Here are the most notable findings.
1. Women are now about as likely as men to obtain UI, although they were 20 percent less likely to do so two decades ago.
2. Hispanics are now about as likely to receive UI as non-Hispanics, despite being almost 40 percent less likely to do so just a decade previously. In contrast, the likelihood of non-Whites obtaining UI has fallen since 2001, widening the gap with Whites.
3. Those younger than 25 are especially unlikely to receive UI — only about one-fifth as likely as those 25 or older, and their prospects for obtaining UI have changed little over the past two decades.
The study also examined UI receipt by educational attainment, industry and occupation (but only for a few broad categories for industry and occupation). The study utilized data from the Current Population Survey and the Benefit Accuracy Measurement program (a sample survey of UI administrative data that the U.S. Department of Labor first instituted in 1987).
The full citation is below, and the study can be accessed at Recent trends in UI recipient characteristics
Marios Michaelides and Peter Mueser, “Recent trends in the characteristics of unemployment insurance recipients," Monthly Labor Review, July 2012, pp. 28-47
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has issued its latest annual report on Labor Force Characteristics by Race and Ethnicity, with historical data from the early 1970s through 2011.
This excellent compendium, which BLS has issued annually for many years, includes data on Whites, African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, American Indians/Alaska Natives (included for the first time in the 2011 report), and Hispanics. Some of data in this report are available on no other BLS Web site — for example, this is the only place where BLS publishes data on American Indians/Alaska Natives.
The report includes data on the labor force, employment, unemployment, earnings, educational attainment, occupation and industry, gender, age, and family type (the amount of detail varies by race and Hispanic origin).
To access this new study, go to Labor Force Characteristics by Race and Ethnicity, 2011.
Reports for previous years, and other BLS data by race and Hispanic origin, are available at www.bls.gov/cps/demographics.htm#race.
The U.S. Census Bureau has just issued The Two or More Races Population: 2010, Census Brief C2010BR-13, September 2012. This study provides data from the 2010 decennial census, and compares it with 2000 census results (the first major issuance since the White House Office of Management and Budget in 1997 announced new racial reporting categories for Federal surveys).
Although seemingly an arcane issue, the new racial categories have a major impact for judging historical trends for different races, especially in the case of less populous minorities such as Native Americans (the largest number of which fall into the American Indian/Alaska Native category). Comparison of trends before and after the introduction of the new classifications should be done cautiously, as in many cases the populations will be quite different. The Census Bureau now reports data for a given race in two ways: 1) a “race alone” group, for which respondents reported a single race only, and 2) a “race in combination” category, for individuals who reported a given race whether or not they reported additional races. The former group is usually a smaller population than would have been reported under the old classification system, while the latter group is usually a much larger population.
In the decade following 2000, the population reporting two or more races grew by 32 percent, more than three times the overall population increase of 9.7 percent (p. 6). Because the Census Bureau overstated the 2000 census results for the multiracial population by 15 percent, the 32 percent figure actually understates the 2000-2010 increase (p. 5). Four groups constituted by far the largest race combinations, each numbering between 1.4 and 1.8 million people. From largest to smallest, these were White and Black; White and Some Other Race (the Census Bureau’s residual category); White and Asian American; and White and American Indian/Alaska Native (p. 5).
This report also includes state and local data (pp. 10-20).
The U.S. Census Bureau has just issued The Emergency and Transitional Shelter Population: 2010, Census Special Report C2010SR-02, September 2012. The Bureau, as part of the 2010 decennial census, counted 209,000 individuals at emergency and transitional shelters (with sleeping facilities) on a single night in late March 2010. The Bureau emphasizes that it does “not produce or publish a total count of ‘the homeless’ population,” and that “there is no standard or agreed upon definition of what constitutes homelessness” (p. 1) It should be noted the Bureau’s count is less than a third of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) count of 650,000, for a single night in January 2010 (see the homelessness entry in ETA’s Guide to State and Local Workforce Data ). HUD reports data for many of the same variables as the Census Bureau study.
Although the Bureau reports no employment data, it did find that 18-64 year-olds constituted 77 percent of the shelter population, compared with a 63 percent level for the entire population in 2010. The major difference is the extremely low proportion of individuals older than 65 in the shelter population: 2.6 percent, compared with 13.0 percent in the overall population (p. 2). As enumerated by the Bureau, the age distribution of the homeless was highly concentrated in the late 30’s to early 60’s, with the mode (or single peak year) at age 50 (p. 4). The steep drop-off after age 62 coincides with, and is perhaps explained by, the Social Security retirement age.
Some 62 percent of the shelter population were male, compared to half of the overall population (p. 2), and there is a stark difference between the two populations in the concentration of African Americans among the shelter population (40.8 vs. 12.6 percent, respectively). In contrast, the proportion of Hispanics in the shelter and overall populations differed little (p. 5).
Just four states had 41.8 percent of the shelter population, led by New York, California, Florida, and Texas (p. 6). New York City alone had 14.1 percent of the shelter population, and the 10 cities with the most homeless constituted 27.8 percent of the shelter population (p. 14).
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has just announced the availability of a new data set including a broad variety of information on criminal offenders and ex-offenders. Note that BLS does not publish the actual data from these questions, but rather makes the data set available so that researchers can analyze the microdata.
The data come from round 14 of the National Longitudinal Survey-Youth 1997 (NLSY97) data set. This survey’s youth and young adult respondents, first interviewed in 1997, were aged 25 to 31 when the round 14 interviews were conducted between October 2010 and June 2011.
NLSY97 queries respondents (nearly 7,500 for round 14) about a wide array of labor market and other issues, including delinquent and criminal behavior. The longitudinal nature of the survey allows an examination of the long-term consequences of such behavior, as well as insights into what factors enable these individuals to enhance their labor market prospects.
For round 14, the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics sponsored more in-depth questions about criminal behavior and incarceration experience.
The questions can be found at NLSY97 round 14 criminal offender and incarceration questions (scroll down the link a bit to reach the questions). For more background about longitudinal surveys, see Links to Longitudinal Surveys.
Jobless Trends by Demographic Group
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has issued a handy chart showing monthly unemployment rate from 2008 to February 2013 by gender, race, Hispanic origin, and for teenagers. See Unemployment rate by Major Worker Group.
Note that the starting point for this chart post-dates the “official” beginning of the recession in December 2007, and that unemployment rates for many groups began to climb as early as some time in 2006. To obtain earlier data for these groups, BLS has a Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey customized tool.
Readjustment of Recent Vets
The Institute of Medicine, a sister organization to the National Research Council and part of the National Academies, has issued Returning Home from Iraq and Afghanistan: Assessment of Readjustment Needs of Veterans, Service Members, and Their Families.
From the study’s intro: In response to the return of large numbers of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan with physical-health and mental-health problems, Section 1661 of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2008 required a National Academies for a study of the physical-health, mental-health, and other readjustment needs of members and former members of the armed forces who were deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
After signing up at the National Academies Web site (no charge), the report can be downloaded for free at the above link.
Long-Term Youth Employment Trends
The Center for American Progress has issued an 8-page summary of employment trends since 1948 among teenagers and young adults through age 24. Teens, especially African Americans, have been hit hardest, but the overall employment pattern has been negative for all youth groups. The 16 percent 2012 unemployment rate among those aged 16-24 was more than twice the overall rate.
For teens, labor force participation rates and employment-to-population ratios peaked in 1978 at nearly 60 percent and 50 percent, respectively, but by 2012 had fallen to 34 percent and 26 percent, respectively — the latter numbers are either the lowest rates recorded or close to it. One of four teens were unemployed in 2012, while the rate for African Americans teens alone was 43 percent.
The report also compares U.S. youth employment trends to those of selected European countries, and estimates the deleterious impact of unemployment for youth on their long-term earnings.
See High Cost of Youth Unemployment.
Employment Among Disability Beneficiaries
The U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) has just released the latest results from its periodic survey of employment among Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries, which provides a wealth of information about employment, working conditions, and attitudes toward work. The survey, conducted by Mathematica Policy Research in 2010, was the fourth round of surveys required by the 1999 statute that created SSA’s “Ticket to Work” program to stimulate employment among beneficiaries.
See 2010 National Beneficiary Survey: Methodology and Descriptive Statistics. For more background on the Ticket to Work program, see ETA’s Disability and Employment Community of Practice.
The survey targeted working-age SSA disability beneficiaries, inquiring about their employment, disability, experience with a variety of SSA programs, employment services used in the past year, health and functional status, health insurance, income and other assistance.
Beneficiaries tended to have limited educational attainment (34 percent hadn’t finished high school, and only 7 percent had a Bachelor’s or higher degree) and income (half were below the poverty line despite disability benefits). More than five of every six experienced difficulties with basic physical activities such as walking, standing, or lifting. Less than one in four described their general health as very good or better.
Employment and Compensation
Given that SSDI and SSI disability eligibility necessitates an inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity because of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment expected to result in the person’s death, or to last at least 12 consecutive months — and that this impairment must prevent a person from engaging in their previous work or in any other work that exists in the national economy — employment is unsurprisingly limited among beneficiaries. Although 82 percent had worked for pay at some point, only 10 percent had been employed in the previous year. Some 12 percent had availed themselves of some employment-related service in the previous year.
Among those not working, the most common reasons offered were that their physical or mental condition prevented work (91 percent); discouragement from previous attempts to work (26 percent); disability-related accessibility problems (24 percent); and unreliable transportation (15 percent).
Those who worked had poorly paid jobs with few benefits, earning on average just over $8 hourly (the minimum wage was $7.25). The proportion without basic benefits was staggeringly high: no employer health insurance (82 percent); no paid sick days (74 percent); no vacation pay (70 percent); and no transportation subsidy (79 percent). Some 63 percent believed that their current job had no potential for promotion. They averaged 20 hours weekly, and had been at their current job for a median of almost 3 years. Slightly more than half worked in the health care or social assistance industries, and 40 percent worked in a sheltered or supported work setting.
Work Attitudes, Disability Accommodations, and Improving Employment Prospects
Somewhat surprisingly given the poor quality of their employment, the overwhelming majority of respondents had very positive attitudes toward their job — as well as to their supervisor and co-workers. Asked about disability-related accommodations and supports, 40 percent said that their employer had made no disability-related accommodation, and 96 percent of the total said that no further workplace changes were needed. Four-fifths said that they used no special equipment at work. Among those who did, 79 percent used some type of mobility device (e.g., wheelchair, cane or brace), and only 10 percent used any type of modified computer hardware or software. Only 23 percent used some type of personal assistant at work, most commonly a job coach.
When asked would factors would help them work or earn more, beneficiaries most commonly cited better job skills or assistance to find work (each about 33 percent); a flexible work schedule (23 percent); and reliable transportation to and from work (17 percent).
Special BLS Disability Survey Results
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has released the findings from its special survey on the employment experiences of persons with disabilities. This special survey, funded by another part of the U.S. Labor Department — the Office of Disability Employment Policy — was conducted in May 2012 as a supplement to the Current Population Survey, the survey used to officially measure unemployment. The summary below concentrates up the facets of this survey that investigated issues not covered in the routine questions asked of persons with disabilities, with particular attention to the working-age 16-64 year-old population.
Barriers to Work
Among non-employed working-age persons with disabilities, 71 percent believed that they faced one or more barriers to employment. Of those who did, the most commonly-perceived barriers were their disability itself (84 percent), inadequate education or training (17 percent), inadequate transportation (14 percent), and a need for special features at a job (12 percent). Among those who were employed, persons with disabilities were most likely to commute in their own vehicle (75 percent) or not commute at all because they worked at home (6 percent) — these patterns differed but not dramatically so from workers without a disability (84 and 4 percent, respectively). Similarly, the proportions who reported that they ever worked from home were almost identical between working-age employed persons with disabilities (22 percent) and those without disabilities (20 percent).
Among those who were employed, nearly half (44 percent) reported no difficulty in completed their work responsibilities, and only 7 percent indicated severe difficulty in doing so.
There were surprisingly few differences between persons with and without disabilities in their likelihood of requesting their employer to make a change in their workplace to help them do their job better (12.5 vs. 8.4 percent, respectively). Among those who did request such a change, the two most common requests for persons with and without disabilities were 1) a change in work tasks, job structure or schedule (45 vs. 47 percent, respectively); and 2) new or modified equipment (33 vs. 37 percent, respectively). In these as well as several other cases, workers with disabilities were actually less to make such a request of their employer than workers without disabilities. In examining whether workers had flexible schedules, those with disabilities were somewhat more likely to have flexible hours than those without disabilities (42 vs. 35 percent).
Previous Work Experience Among Those Not in the Labor Force
Among persons with disabilities who were not in the labor force at the time of the survey (i.e., neither employed nor unemployed), the proportion who had never worked at all dropped steadily with age. For those older than the most common postsecondary schooling years, the share who had never worked exhibited the following pattern for these age groups: 25-34 (36 percent); 35-44 (21 percent); 45-54 (18 percent); and 55-64 (11 percent). Given the overall trend, it’s somewhat surprising that there was little drop between the 35-44 and 45-54 year-olds.
Career and Financial Help
Among working-age persons with disabilities, 12 percent reported receiving some kind of career assistance in the previous 5 years (from American Job Centers as well as a number of disability-specific career services). Those who were unemployed at the time of the survey were unsurprisingly much more likely to have obtained such help (28 percent), but the proportions were nearly identical for those employed or out of the labor force entirely (13 vs. 11 percent, respectively).
When asked if they’d received some kind of financial assistance (primarily from government cash or health insurance programs) in the previous year, just over half of working-age persons with disabilities had: 24 percent of all those employed (not just working-age) had received such assistance, compared with 40 percent of those unemployed at the time of the survey.
For the results from this special survey, see Persons with a Disability: Barriers to Employment, Types of Assistance, and Other Labor-Related Issues — May 2012. At this time, BLS has no additional unpublished tables for this special survey.
BLS will release the 2012 annual data for persons with disabilities on June 13, 2013.
Selected 2012 Annual Disability Data Released
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has released selected 2012 annual disability data in its April issue of the Monthly Labor Review, although the full 2012 annual data will not be available until June 13, 2013.
See People with a disability in 2012: a visual essay.
For the 2011 annual workforce data on persons with disabilities, see
6 Reports on Foreign-Born Workers
The U.S. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) today released 6 reports either partly or solely devoted to analyzing the foreign-born labor force, including
• Description of the Immigrant Population
• Snapshot of the Unemployment Rate of People Ages 25 to 64, by Birthplace, 1994 to 2012
• Snapshot of the Number of Unauthorized Foreign-Born People in the United States, 2000 and 2011
• Snapshot of the Educational Attainment of People Ages 25 to 64 in the United States, by Birthplace, 2012
• Snapshot of the Share of States' Population That Is Foreign Born, 2012
• Snapshot of the Foreign-Born Population in the United States, 1860 to 2010
See the CBO immigration Web page, for these studies and any subsequent CBO reports on this topic.
Evaluation: ETA’s Aging Worker Initiative
The U.S. Labor Department has issued its final report on its Evaluation of the Aging Worker Initiative, undertaken in 2009 to understand how best to prepare individuals 55 and older for work in growing occupations.
The findings were extremely wide-ranging, but emphasized the importance of career and labor market information: “Projects found that older workers were particularly uninformed about different occupations and how their previous experiences and training might prepare them for a new career path. They learned that providing a participant with good information about labor markets and career paths was essential to help the customer make a good choice about whether to enter training and what kind of training to pursue. This information includes the level of academic skills needed to succeed in a particular training program, the types of job tasks and working conditions individuals would be likely to encounter if they pursued that occupation, the wages they could expect to earn at the entry level, and the opportunities for career advancement.” [Executive Summary, p. 16 and pp. 5:7-9 and 7:10]
This finding underscores the importance of career and labor market information more broadly, because if enrollees with substantial work experience (see pages 4:8, 13) lacked this knowledge, this deficiency is likely to be much more marked for younger individuals.
See Evaluation of the Aging Worker Initiative (Final Report).
Foreign- vs. Native-Born Workers: 2012
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data show identical 2012 annual unemployment rates for foreign-born vs. native-born Americans, with each experiencing about a 1 percentage point drop in unemployment, to an 8.1 percent level. However, partly due to less education, foreign-born full-time employees earned only 78 percent of their native-born compatriots.
Last year there were 25 million foreign-born individuals (which BLS defines as “persons residing in the United States who were not U.S. citizens at birth”) in the labor force, comprising 16.1 percent of the total (rising more or less steadily since 1996's 10.8 percent level). Hispanics and Asians accounted for about half and a fourth of the foreign-born labor force, respectively.
There were some dramatic differences in educational attainment between foreign- and native-born labor force participants aged 25 or older: 25 percent of the foreign-born did not finish high school, compared with only 5 percent of the native-born (by contrast, there was little difference in the likelihood of possessing a Bachelor’s degree: 33 vs. 37 percent, respectively). But such less-educated foreign-born individuals were much more likely to be in the labor force than their native-born compatriots, by 60 vs. 37 percent.
This disparity in educational attainment partly explained the full-time earnings gap between foreign- and native-born employees. In fact, among those with at least a Bachelor’s degree, weekly earnings were identical for both groups. However, earnings for foreign-born employees were less than 85 percent of native-born employees for those with no more than a high school education.
Since1996, unemployment rates between the two groups have not shown a consistent pattern. From 1996 to 2003, the jobless rate for the foreign born was higher than for the native born. In the years immediately before the recession, native-born individuals experienced unemployment rates roughly half a percentage point higher, while during the peak unemployment period the pattern reversed, with foreign-born individuals faring worse than the native-born. During the past 3 years there has been no more than a .2 percentage point difference between the two groups.
See Foreign-Born Workers: Labor Force Characteristic — 2012. The news release does not include state or local statistics, but does report data for 9 broad geographic regions. See also the excellent BLS series of charts and references (last slide) on Foreign-Born Workers in the U.S. Labor Force.
Employment by Gender, Race, & Ethnicity
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has recently issued three lengthy compendiums of labor force data by race and Hispanic origin (to 2012) and gender (to 2011), plus a special report on earnings by gender (to 2012) that includes selected earnings data by race and Hispanic origin.
1. Labor Force Characteristics by Race and Ethnicity, 2012 (October 2013, 62 pp.) includes the only published BLS data onNative Americans, and also includes data by Hispanic ethnicity by place of origin. Historical data are shown as far back as 1972.
2. Highlights of Women’s Earnings in 2012 (October 2013, 91 pp.) also includes state-level data (table 3), historical data as far back as 1979, and selected earnings data by race and Hispanic origin.
3. Women in the Labor Force: A Databook (February 2013, 104 pp.) is not quite as recent, as the most recent annual average data are for 2011 (for 2012 data, see number 1 above). It includes historical data back to 1970.
2013 Veterans Jobs Data Shows Mixed Picture
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently issued its 2013 annual average data on the employment of veterans. The results were mixed for the nation’s nearly 11 million veterans. Unemployment rates dropped for veterans between 2012 and 2013 (from 7.0 to 6.6 percent), although by less than the corresponding decline for non-veterans (from 7.9 to 7.2 percent). Falling unemployment rates often coincide with a rising employment-to-population ratio, but the share of veterans employed fell from 48.3 to 47.9 percent between 2012 and 2013. In contrast, the employment-to-population ratio for non-veterans remained constant between the two years.
The most recent cohort of veterans (those who served since September 2001) fared relatively better, with unemployment rates dropping by nearly a full percentage point since 2012 (from 9.9 to 9.0 percent), and the employment-to-population ratio rising from 72.7 to 73.3 percent. [Table A of the BLS news release]
An examination of 2013 unemployment rates for all veterans vs. non-veterans by gender, race and ethnicity shows a mixed pattern, with veterans faring better than non-veterans among men (6.5 vs. 7.5 percent), African Americans (8.2 vs. 13.0 percent), and Hispanics (7.5 vs. 8.8 percent). However, the veteran/non-veteran differential was negligible (less than .1 percentage point) among women and Whites. [Table 1] Comparisons by age group showed that young veterans (under 35) experience greater unemployment than non-veterans; that the unemployment experience is about the same for 35-54 year-olds; and that veterans older than 54 experience more unemployment than their non-veteran counterparts. Thus, only middle-age veterans fare as well as non-veterans in their jobless rates. [Table 2A]
Several major factors complicate the interpretation of veterans’ employment data. Because the extent of military service is so uneven across time, the age distribution of veterans and non-veterans distinctly differs. In addition, by definition young veterans have more in common with the experience of a dislocated worker than the typical situation of a non-veteran. Although it has lessened over time, the distribution by gender of veterans vs. non-veterans also differs greatly. These and other factors must be weighed in making judgments about the meaningfulness of employment and unemployment differences between veterans and non-veterans.
Veterans with more educational attainment fare better than those with less education, as is true for the entire population. Recent veterans (those who served since September 2001) who are older than 25 tend to be relatively well educated: only 1.4 percent had less than a high school diploma, and 25.2 percent had a high school diploma only. Nearly three quarters had at least some college, with 31.3 percent holding a Bachelor’s or higher degree (42.1 percent had an Associate’s degree or some college but no degree).
Veterans in New Jersey (10.8) and Michigan (10.6) experienced unemployment rates higher than 10 percent in 2013, with both rates at least 2 percentage points higher than their state's non-veterans. Four states -- Delaware, Iowa, North Dakota, and Vermont -- had veterans' unemployment rates below 3.5 percent; all of these states except Delaware (7.0 percent) also had very low unemployment rates for non-veterans.
See the BLS Veterans Site for current and historical veterans data, and the Employment Situation of Veterans — 2013 for the data presented here, along with a wealth of additional veterans data, including industry, occupational, self-employment, disability, and other statistics. Table 6 includes state-specific veterans and non-veterans data.
For a table and chart showing historical unemployment trends for veterans and non-veterans, see Unemployment
for Veterans, Persons with Disabilities, and the Foreign-Born.
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