“Don’t leave your old job until you have a new one.” That used to be the advice regularly handed out, leaving candidates often stressed when faced with unexpected unemployment. But with all of the curveballs thrown this past year, unemployment is no longer a scarlet letter. It’s a commonplace occurrence. A security clearance has long been held as a golden ticket and extra buffer of security in any job market. While the national security workforce fared better than the rest of the country, the ClearanceJobs’s 2021 Security Clearance Compensation Report saw an increase in cleared and unemployed professionals.

More than 20% of the unemployed respondents were switching gears into retirement, which is good news. The remaining respondents reported contract endings, furloughs, and layoffs, and COVID-19 as the reason for their unemployment. 

Although unemployment struck every age and gender, Generation X was hit the hardest in 2020, with 36% of Gen Xers being on the receiving end of a WARN notice. The pandemic has been hard on parents, but in the cleared industry, both men and women were equally hit by COVID-19 layoffs and furloughs.

Of course, getting more education, certifications, and experience can boost compensation, but it doesn’t always prevent a layoff. Those with just a bachelor’s degree were more affected. However, survey results also showed that unemployed respondents were less likely to have a certification than currently employed cleared candidates.

Experience doesn’t necessarily prevent unemployment and senior level career professionals with 10 or more years of experience were hardest hit. Senior executives and entry-level professionals were the least likely to be hit by unemployment. 

Greener Pastures in 2021

A career ending in 2020 could be the ticket to a new employer in 2021. Getting candidates to relocate is often challenging, but after a pandemic year and a rise in unemployment numbers, candidates who maybe didn’t want to leave the city life before might find lesser known cleared hubs more appealing. And with hybrid or remote work on everyone’s minds, more cleared candidates are also open to new career opportunities. The unemployed cleared professionals are educated and experienced. Unemployed candidates a key part of the recruiting AND retention strategy.

Access the full Cleared and Unemployed Report.

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.