The unemployment rate of post-9/11 veterans has been declining in the past couple of years; in January, the unemployment rate of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan stood at 7.9 percent, versus the overall average of 6.6 percent. A pledge to hire veterans made this week by 100 companies and associations in the construction industry could aid both veteran unemployment rates and labor shortage concerns.
Joining Forces—launched by Michelle Obama and Jill Biden in 2011—is a nationwide effort to provide support for military veterans and their spouses, including employment resources. Since the initiative's launch, nearly 400,000 veterans and their spouses have been hired, and companies such as Disney, Starbucks, UPS, and Walmart have pledged to hire thousands of veterans. This pledge announcement is especially significant however, in that it's the first time an entire industry has made this commitment to hiring veterans.
In a conference sponsored by the Labor Department and Joining Forces early Monday morning, the construction industry vowed to hire 100,000 returning veterans by 2019. The construction industry added 48,000 jobs last month (the largest single-month employment growth in four years), and, according to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, as many as 1.5 million construction jobs are slated to be added through 2022. The arrangement will be mutually beneficial in light of labor shortage concerns in the industry, and because it will provide veterans with an occupation (with an average wage of $20 per hour) where they can use their military skills.
A full list of the 100 participating companies/associations has not been released, but the National Center for Construction Education and Research, the Associated General Contractors of America, and the Home Builders Institute are among many groups to make the pledge.