November 5, 2010
Joining the ranks: Weak job market gives new appeal to military enlistment
The Associated Press
Michael Lyons thought he had a career plan: Continue working as an equity trader on Wall Street and finish 20 years of service with the Army National Guard.
Then came layoffs. His well-paying civilian job was gone. So Lyons, 45, turned to full-time employment in the New Jersey National Guard, where he found job security and benefits. He is among tens of thousands of men and women who looked at the vagaries of the job market and chose the military.
With unemployment hovering near 10 percent, many are remaining in uniform longer than they had planned. The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines exceeded their retention goals last year and this year despite the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Army met 124 percent of its goal last year, compared with 102 percent in 2001.
Veterans Job Fair
Nov. 9, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
WorkSource Everett, 3210 Smith Ave., fourth floor, wa.gov/esd/calendar.htm
Veterans can meet with employers from Snohomish, Whatcom, Skagit, King, Island and Pierce counties.
Veteran Opportunity Expo
Nov. 11, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center, 1500 Broadway, recruitmilitary.com
Veterans and those in the National Guard and Reserves can connect with area employers at this job fair; register online.
“At this stage, I like the safety and security of a military position,” says Lyons, a lieutenant colonel, who serves as the New Jersey National Guard’s director of construction and facility management. “There are a lot of unemployed traders out there.”
Recruitment also has risen, officials say. The Army met 104 percent of its goal for active-duty service in the first half of the year. It achieved 132 percent of its goal for the Army National Guard in the spring, prompting recruiters to scale back efforts to avoid exceeding their required numbers for the year.
Employment opportunities, job security, patriotism and free college tuition are among the chief reasons many have chosen the Army, officials say. Army recruiters emphasize the employment angle.
“You can do more in the military than you can do anyplace else,” says Lt. Col. John Sheard, commander of recruiting and retention for the New Jersey Army National Guard. “People are getting in or staying in because of opportunities. We have 250 different jobs. There’s not a profession we don’t have.”
The average active-duty junior enlisted member with a high school diploma earns about $43,000 a year, not including bonuses, medical care and government-paid retirement, officials say. A reservist of the same rank earns about $4,300 for a year of weekend drills and two weeks of summer training.
More on the military
While each branch of the military has its own website — goarmy.com, marines.com, navy.com, gocoastguard.com and airforce.com — the site military.com offers an overview of all the branches, including information about benefits and how to join the military.
Whether the interest in the military is the result of the bad economy or free tuition, it comes at an unusual time, officials say. The nation is simultaneously battling a weak economy and two long-term wars.
“A 1 percent change in civilian unemployment yields a 0.6 percent increase in Army recruiting, historically,” says Douglas Smith, a spokesman for the U.S. Army. “We take no delight in civilian unemployment. It’s not good for the country.”
At the same time, “we know the economy is one element” of the military’s success in filling the ranks, Smith says. “People know it’s harder to get a civilian job. A number of them have a break in their civilian career.”
Defense Department spokeswoman Eileen Lainez says, “In a tighter job market, young men and women may be more receptive to learning about the opportunities the military has to offer.”
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