The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks the employment status of military veterans and has done so in detail since 2008. It divides the vets into periods of service, and tries to eliminate duplicates, such as Vietnam vets who also saw duty in the first Gulf war. One of their categories is Gulf War era I (August 1990-August 2001). As of Nov. 2013, there were about 3.1 million of these vets, and 85 percent of them were in the labor force.
The youngest of these vets would be about 30. These are the men and women who served during the liberation of Kuwait and the long drawdown of the military post-Cold War. About 23 percent are women and about 25 percent of that number are not in the labor force.
The Nov. 2013 unemployment rate for Gulf War I era veterans was 6.6 percent. This was an increase from the prior year. Nov. 2012 saw a 5.4 percent unemployment rate for these former service members. The number of women with jobs increased over 20 percent, year over year, while male vets from this era saw little increase in jobs and an increased unemployment rate.
Gulf War I era veterans experienced the Clinton boom while in the civilian labor force. It allowed them to begin or build careers and families at a time when poverty rates and unemployment rates were at or near historical lows. Wage parity reached a record in that period as well.
These vets continued to succeed in civilian clothes during the Bush administration, when wage parity between men and women set four record highs, poverty rates remained near record lows and unemployment rates held fairly steady. When the BLS began keeping records for this era in 2008, the unemployment rate was 4.2 percent. It reached its highest point in April, 2009, at 9.7 percent.
November’s rate of 6.6 percent is the highest for this group since Sept. 2012. It has climbed every month since June, when it hit a near-record low of 4.9 percent. The number of unemployed has risen by 44,000.
Gulf War I era veterans are at the peak of their careers, or in the midst of raising families and sending children to college. Unemployment in this demographic suggests that businesses have reached the “bone” with their cuts. Middle and upper management, the most senior and experienced workers, these are the employees that are the last to be cut. Employment of Gulf War I era veterans is a key indicator for economic health and recovery, and since June that indicator has been negative.