NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — More veterans are coming back from war and getting back to work in the civilian job force, thanks to efforts by both employers and the government, as well as the improving economy.
The jobless rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans has fallen to 7.6%, well below the overall U.S. unemployment rate of 8.3%, and nearly five percentage points below the 12.5% rate for veterans a year ago.
Many employers make it a point to hire vets. Dawn Halfaker, a former military police captain who lost her arm in Iraq in 2004, is among them. She founded her consultancy Halfaker and Associates in 2006, with the intention of hiring wounded warriors like herself.
“I know what it’s like to get injured and have your career taken away from you,” she said. “So I want to make sure my company is a vehicle to offer opportunities to other warriors.”
Nearly half of the 170 employees at Halfaker and Associates are veterans, and 10% of them are disabled.
Some firms have formal military recruiting programs, and others are creating or expanding them. This week Disney (DIS, Fortune 500) announced “Heroes Work Here,” a program it says will recruit 1,000 vets over the next three years.
The government wants to encourage more efforts like this. “This past year saw the passage of a number of bills specifically designed to support veteran hiring and training,” said Adriana Kugler, chief economist for the U.S. Department of Labor, which produces the BLS statistics.
Kugler cites the Returning Heroes and Wounded Warriors tax credits, both of which went into effect in November.
Returning Heroes provides a credit of up to $2,400 to employers who hire a vet who’s been unemployed for at least four weeks. It was expanded to give $5,600 to employers who hire veterans who’ve been jobless for over six months.