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High unemployment still haunting military veterans

A sign points the way for military personnel, veterans and military spouses attending the Hiring Our Heroes job fair in Washington January 1
A sign points the way for military personnel, veterans and military spouses attending the Hiring Our Heroes job fair in Washington January 1

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Unemployment among U.S. military veterans eased last year, government data showed on Thursday, but remained far higher than the national average rate for the civilian population.

The unemployment rate among veterans who had joined the military after September 11, 2001, averaged 9.0 percent last year, down from 9.9 percent in 2012, the Labor Department said. That was about 1.6 percentage points above the rate for the civilian population.

Joblessness among this group is set to worsen as the war in Afghanistan winds down. Pentagon's proposed budget calls for the U.S. Army to shrink to around 450,000 from a war-time high of 570,000.

The Obama administration and the U.S. Congress have pushed forward an array of measures, including tax credits for companies employing veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

"There is still much work to be done for our nation's youngest veterans," said James Jones, co-chair at the non-profit Call of Duty Endowment in Arlington, Virginia.

"These brave young men and women bring tremendous value to the workplace and it is the job of executives and hiring managers alike to promote their worth and eradicate the still-evident discrepancy in employment rates."

Call of Duty Endowment helps veterans find careers by supporting groups that prepare them for the job market.

Research by Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago economists last year found that veterans deployed overseas for prolonged periods struggled to find work because of the traumas of war, as well as training that did not readily translate into the civilian world.

Among 9/11 military veterans, women suffered the most from high joblessness, with an unemployment rate of 9.6 percent in 2013. That compared to 12.5 percent in 2012. Unemployed female veterans were concentrated in the 18-34 age group last year.

The unemployment rate for men was 8.8 percent, down from 9.5 percent the previous year. Unemployment was high for men in the 18-24 age group, with the rate at 24.3 percent.

For men aged 25 to 34, the unemployment rate was 9.2 percent. For male veterans 35 and older, the unemployment rate was below 6.5 percent last year.

(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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