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D.C. Veterans Struggle With Employment

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While the unemployment rate for veterans of the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq continues to climb, companies say they are eager to hire workers with military experience.
Patrick Madden
While the unemployment rate for veterans of the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq continues to climb, companies say they are eager to hire workers with military experience.

While the unemployment rate for veterans of the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq continues to climb, companies say they are eager to hire workers with military experience. Hiring reps from dozens of private companies, non-profits, and government agencies lined the walls of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington branch, Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus (THEARC) in Southeast D.C.  on Tuesday, for a job fair aimed at service members.

D.C. teamed up with the federal government and the American Legion for Tuesday's job fair, the goal of which is for each company in attendance to hire at least one local veteran. Veterans are some of the most highly qualified and skilled individuals in the labor pool, city officials say, but they can have trouble finding employment when they return from deployment or retire from the military.

The number of recruiters at times seemed to far exceed the number of veterans at the job fair. And while governments at both the federal and local level have offered all sorts of incentives to companies that hire veterans, employers say workers with military service will always be sought after.

 “We like veterans because they have developed discipline learning the problem-solving skills to be a value added component of our workforce,” says Tony Navarro, a recruiter for a local sheet metal worker's union. 

Despite this sentiment, the unemployment rate for veterans of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continues to climb, and now surpasses the rate for the general population, according to recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor

In the District, the unemployment rate for veterans is 13 percent, and in Ward 8, where the job fair was held, that rate is nearly 30 percent.

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