The State of the Job Market for Veterans

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There’s never a wrong time to think about what our country provides for those who give the most of themselves. But as Veterans Day approaches, now is the perfect time to take stock of how veterans continue to serve their country — and vice versa.

In 2018, 19.2 million men and women were veterans, according to the latest report from the U.S. Department of Labor. That represents about 8% of the population (outside of institutions) age 18 and over.

Veterans had a 3.5% unemployment rate, lower than the 2018 annual average of 3.9% across the U.S. The report says that, among the 326,000 unemployed veterans in 2018:

  • 54% were age 25 to 54
  • 40% were age 55 and over
  • 6% were age 18 to 24

An increasing share of veterans are women, the BLS report shows. About 10% of all veterans are women, and women account for about 17% of the 4.1 million who have served in the military since September 2001.

Where veterans work

The Labor Department report also highlights a trend of veterans’ continued interest in public service, noting:

“Employed Gulf War-era II veterans were twice as likely to work in the public sector in 2018 as employed nonveterans — 26 percent and 13 percent, respectively.”

The share of veterans working in government, whether federal, state or local, is 21.7%, while 70.4% work in private industries. The remainder work in agriculture jobs or are self-employed, which the federal government counts separately.

The largest sectors for veteran employment are:

  • Manufacturing: 11.7% of veterans
  • Professional and business services: 11.4%
  • Education and health services: 8.4%
  • Retail trade: 8.4%
  • Transportation and utilities: 7.3%
  • Construction: 6.4%

Overall, 39.1% of employed veterans are in “management, professional, and related occupations,” according to the report.

An additional 16.5% are in “sales and office occupations,” and a similar number are in “production, transportation, and material moving occupations,” while an additional 14.2% work in the service industry.

What about the companies that rely most on veterans for their workforce? Some of the largest are tech services and consulting firms. Nearly half (47%) of ManTech’s employees are veterans, according to Veterans make up 37% of the workforce at CACI International Inc., 27% at Booz Allen Hamilton, 23% at PRISM Inc. and 22.5% at Lockheed Martin.

In other industries, 18% of Union Pacific Railroad’s employees and 22% of Schneider National are veterans, according to And Glassdoor reports that 15% of Boeing’s employees are veterans.

Programs that help veterans with jobs

Many of the companies above owe their veteran employment rates to in-house specialized outreach and retention programs. But they’re far from the only programs targeting veterans for jobs. Seemingly everyone from the federal government (Feds Hire Vets) to Walgreens (the HERO Program) offers opportunities specifically for vets.

Here are some others:

  • Power Home Remodeling’s Power Veterans Initiative highlights the company’s own hiring incentives for veterans and military spouses while advocating for and assisting other businesses hiring vets.
  • Southwest Airlines’ Military Skills Translator and Home Depot’s Military Skills Translator both help identify civilian jobs that match military experience.
  • The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is dedicated to ensuring that veterans have the work and benefits they deserve. In addition to hiring veterans directly, the department offers many resources, including resume advice and guidance on the federal hiring process.

Other job resources for veterans

While the companies and agencies above tailor job opportunities to veterans, other agencies focus on helping vets find — or create — the jobs they want.

  • offers extensive free help, including veterans job boards in many industries, guides to transitioning to civilian employment, a military skills translator and career-matching assistance and a job fair search.
  • Hire Heroes USA is a nonprofit that partners with organizations that help veterans and their spouses find employment with mentoring, job boards, and training programs.
  • The VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program helps veterans with disabilities find jobs or self-employment and achieve independence in civilian life.
  • The VA’s Veteran Entrepreneur Portal helps vets start and finance a business or franchise and find government contracts.
  • SCORE, a nonprofit that helps small businesses, has a variety of resources to help vet entrepreneurs launch and succeed in business, including online and local workshops and information about funding sources.

Do you know of other valuable resources for vets? Share them on our Facebook page.

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