Interactive Map: Unemployment among NJ Vets Exceeds Civilian Rate

Colleen O'Dea | November 14, 2014 | Map of the Week, Maps
State ranks worst in nation for joblessness among former members of military

Like the rest of the state’s residents, New Jersey veterans face greater unemployment than the national average, but military vets are even worse off because their rate of unemployment is greater than that of New Jerseyans who did not serve in the military.

The most recent data from U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey estimates that nearly 1 in 10 New Jersey veterans ages 18 through 64 were out of work and looking for a job last year.

That was higher than the estimated 8.9 percent unemployment rate for nonveterans in the state. It was also higher than the national veterans’ unemployment rate of 7.4 percent from the same survey. And, nationally, more non-veterans, at 8.4 percent, were out of work than veterans.

What’s more, a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics released last March showed New Jersey’s veterans actually had the highest unemployment rate of any state in the nation — 10.8 percent of those age 18 and older who were still in the work force. Michigan ranked second, with 10.6 percent, while the national average was 6.6 percent.

The unemployment rate for veterans ages 18 through 64 as reported by the ACS varied widely among New Jersey’s counties, from 3 percent out of work in Burlington to 17.2 percent in Passaic. It was even higher in some of the state’s largest cities, for which data were available: About a third of 1,233 veterans in Camden couldn’t find work, with nearly 29 percent in Edison and some 22 percent in Newark unemployed.

The proportion of veterans not working was significantly higher when the numbers included those who are not looking for work: more than 3 in 10 New Jersey vets ages 18 through 64. In Cape May County, more than half of 2,700 vets were either unemployed or not in the work force, while just 19 percent of 16,000 veterans in Burlington fell into that category.

On Monday, the Census Bureau released a report on the employment status of the nation’s youngest veterans — those who served during the Persian Gulf War era beginning in 1990 and ending before September 11, 2001, and those who served after the terrorist attacks. That report held some good news for those veterans nationally, finding that, “Men and women veterans from both Gulf War eras were more likely to be employed in full-time, year-round jobs than their nonveteran counterparts.”

Census officials focused on this group of veterans because World War II and Korean War veterans are retired and many Vietnam War veterans are retired or nearing retirement, as well. The report found that those who joined the armed forces after 1990 had “a substantially different military experience than their predecessors,” which has made finding work easier. Among the changes, women became eligible to hold more career service positions and the kind of work done during the Gulf War periods gave those who served skills that were easier to transfer to private sector work.

The report notes that “many factors” could explain why veterans nationally have better employment rates than non-veterans, including age, race and ethnicity, citizenship, disability status and “selectivity bias of those who chose to serve in the military.” It does not explore those potential reasons.

New Jersey has more than 68,000 veterans who served in either or both of the Gulf War periods. Employment data was not available by term of service at the state level, but it was broken out by age. That showed the youngest veterans having the toughest time finding work:

• The unemployment rate for those 18 through 34 was 15.9 percent. Most of these veterans would have served in the Gulf War II period.

• Of those 35 to 54 years old, 9.2 percent were out of work. Most of these veterans would have served in Gulf War I and the period between the Gulf and the Vietnam wars.

• The unemployment rate for New Jersey veterans ages 55 to 64 was 7.4 percent. This group is comprised of Vietnam veterans, the youngest of whom would have been 56 last year.

There is some crossover among groups, as some veterans have served in two or three periods of war.