(NewsNation) — While the national unemployment rate continues to defy expectations and sits near 50-year lows, the job market for U.S. veterans has remained even more resilient.
In fact, last month’s 2.5% veteran unemployment rate is one of the lowest monthly marks in the last 20 years and sits below the already historically low national rate of 3.6%.
On Tuesday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will issue its annual report on the “Employment Situation of Veterans,” which is expected to show a second consecutive year where the unemployment rate for veterans has fallen.
Experts say today’s outcomes reflect a broader decadelong effort by companies, nonprofits and educational institutions to train and support veterans in the workplace.
The wake-up call appeared to come shortly after the Great Recession, according to Rosalinda Vasquez Maury of Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF).
At the time, the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans far outpaced the rate for nonveterans and surged to more than 15% in Jan. 2011.
“You had a lot of employers getting together and saying ‘we’ve got to do something,’ ‘we have to support transitioning service members, and veterans and their families,'” Maury said.
That same year, Congress passed the bipartisan “VOW to Hire Heroes Act,” which expanded training opportunities and provided tax credits for companies hiring unemployed veterans. Then-President Barack Obama urged private firms to hire or train 100,000 veterans and their spouses.
The renewed attention spurred programs such as the Veteran Jobs Mission and Hiring Our Heroes, which established career pipelines that maximized the unique skills service members develop through the military.
“There are a lot of soft skills — the adaptability, the work ethic and the leadership in particular — that are enhanced through military training,” Maury said.
Other veteran groups are doing their part to keep the unemployment rate down by providing training for technical skills that are in high demand.
Over the past three years, the number of open manufacturing jobs has skyrocketed — doubling from around 400,000 to more than 800,000 in January.
Nonprofits like Workshops for Warriors in San Diego are working to fill that void.
After combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, Navy veteran Hernán Luis y Prado noticed many of his fellow service members were struggling.
“There was no easy way for them to transition into something that was cohesive and useful,” Luis y Prado said.
He and his wife decided to sell everything, and they developed a four-month training program to help veterans and transitioning service members get into skilled, well-paid manufacturing jobs.
Luis y Prado realized he had hit on something important. Manufacturing gave veterans a chance to work with their hands toward a clear goal, while also inspiring the pride that comes with “Made in America.”
“They know what it is to serve and they want to serve our nation’s manufacturing infrastructure,” he said.
Since opening in 2008, the nonprofit has graduated more than 1,100 veterans and transitioning service members. Luis y Prado said the average grad makes a starting salary of $60,000 and most have multiple job offers before the program is finished.
The national effort to support veterans with post-service career opportunities appears to be paying off. Over the past two months, the veteran unemployment rate has fallen even as the nonveteran jobless rate has increased.
Efforts by the Federal Reserve to curb inflation could change the national job outlook in the months ahead, but Luis y Prado is optimistic programs like his will be vital for years to come.
“One hundred years from now, people will look back and they will see that San Diego, and Workshops for Warriors, were the birthplace for America’s green manufacturing renaissance,” he said. “America can once again be a lighthouse to the world.”