The unemployment rate remains at significant lows, at 3.6% in March 2022, with an even lower rate for tech professionals. Add the need for a security clearance or a polygraph to those figures and it’s easy to think everyone is already employed. But job churn is real, and at any given moment there are candidates with one foot out the door – and possibly one foot ready to take a job with your company.

While there used to be stigma around employment status, with recruiters touting their success in attracting the coveted passive candidate, in today’s market – every candidate counts. And an unemployed candidate is one who may be able jump into a cleared position quickly – particularly if their clearance is still current.

Download our report: Cleared & Unemployed

The 2022 Security Clearance Compensation Report put the spotlight on a national security workforce under pressure. After two years of a global pandemic, the cleared workforce is adjusting to hybrid work environments and recovering from the pressure of keeping classified projects operational despite COVID protocols, office closures, and Zoom classrooms.

Unemployment is one key indicator of the overall health of the workforce, and the ClearanceJobs survey found a 15% decrease in unemployed respondents, with 4,047 respondents selecting unemployed as their job status compared to the prior year. That’s 8% of overall respondents. Historically, unemployment had stigma. But in a candidate’s market, being unemployed can mean available. Like resume gaps, unemployment is often just an indication of the unique needs of each candidate, including the flexibility to care for family members or take time for mental health.

The ClearanceJobs survey shows retirement and contract ending are the top two reasons for cleared candidates to find themselves unemployed. For another 16% of unemployed respondents, leave was voluntary, showing the trend of cleared employees choosing to take the time to reset in between opportunities. And while 80% of currently unemployed respondents don’t have a polygraph – 20% do. When it comes to the professional in between positions, today’s unemployed candidates are often educated, qualified, and experienced, with 37% of unemployed respondents in the critical Gen X stage.

In a time when employment options are plentiful, being unemployed is often a matter of choice or chance. And for recruiters, that means it can also be an opportunity. Don’t let a resume gap – whether past or current – keep you from connecting with a candidate.

Read more unemployment and job gap trends in our full Cleared & Unemployed report. 



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Evan H. Lesser is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Before founding ClearanceJobs, Mr. Lesser managed technical projects with CACI for the U.S. Navy's Science and Technology directorate at the Pentagon, and for the Joint Technology Panel on Electronic Warfare. Previously, he worked for Boeing on its Reserve Component Automation System program for the U.S. Army in metro Washington, DC. Mr. Lesser has a degree in Philosophy from the University of Georgia in Athens, and lives and works in the Atlanta metropolitan area.