New Jersey second highest in nation for jobless vets
When it comes to the unemployment rate for veterans, New Jersey had the second-highest in the nation in 2014, according to data from the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The data shows that 7.9 percent of veterans -- approximately 13,000 -- were jobless in the state last year. That is a significant decrease from the 10.8 percent in 2013 and the 10 percent in 2012. However, it is still higher than neighboring states including Pennsylvania and New York which were 4.7 percent and 5.8 percent respectively.
"Structurally, New Jersey has lost a lot of jobs. We have lost a lot of big businesses especially at the middle and lower level of the spectrum which is where a lot of veterans start out," said George Hanley, founder and chairman of Welcome Home Vets of New Jersey. "It's particularly bad because of redeployments which didn't used to exist. When I was young, you served your 12 months unless you extended and then you got out and moved on. These people can't and they can be called back anytime because no one has the guts to sponsor and produce a universal draft."
Redeployment is tough psychologically and, in many cases, physically according to Hanley.
"It is never good to have anyone sent into combat, but when they do it two and three times, it would be an absolute miracle if they weren't psychologically damaged. That is a real problem," he said.
The lack of large manufacturing jobs and redeployments come together to make the situation very difficult for veterans. Civil service has requirements in New Jersey and most states to give veterans preference, but at the entry level, tests do not have to be taken and that allows companies to give preference to others over the veterans.
"I think municipal, state and county governments need to be more proactive to seek out veterans who need jobs and to give them the preference they are entitled to under law," Hanley said. "At the same time, veterans have to know that they are entitled to preference and often times, they are not aware of that fact."
Gordon MacInnes, president of New Jersey Policy Perspective said in a press release that if the state's economy was recovering, it would benefit veterans.
"It is disheartening that New Jersey's veterans bear a disproportionate share of the burden of the state's limping economic recovery," MacInnes said. "While special efforts to help veterans find jobs should be bolstered, if New Jersey's entire economy was truly recovering, the situation would be greatly improved for the state's veterans. But it's not, and policymakers need to chart a new course in order to help change that."