By Nick Zieminski
(Reuters) - More U.S. military veterans expect to look for work in coming months as they return to civilian life, many after being stationed in Afghanistan, but they are less confident about finding work that suits them, according to a new survey.
The twice-yearly survey, by Monster Worldwide Inc, found fewer than half of veterans consider themselves ready to move into civilian jobs. The number who say they are confident about finding suitable work fell to 29 percent from 44 percent six months ago.
Besides entering a tough U.S. labor market where job gains are barely keeping up with population growth, veterans are also facing more skeptical employers. Only 39 percent of employers say veterans or those with prior military experience are prepared for a career change.
Monster says part of the problem is a communications gap between veterans and employers, since many hiring managers do not understand what military work entails or what skills carry over to civilian jobs. Ex-military applicants, used to working in teams, don't always know how to sell themselves in an interview or take individual credit for accomplishments.
"When a vet transitions into the civilian community, the burden is going to fall on that veteran to learn the language of the civilian job-hiring community," said T.L. McCreary, president of Military.com, a division of Monster.
The company surveyed 900 employers and more than 900 veterans who were transitioning to civilian life.
Some 200,000 service members transition to the civilian workforce each year, according to government data, but that is expected to rise to around 300,000 a year as U.S. defense spending is cut and the Pentagon pulls U.S. troops home from Afghanistan.
Veterans have multiple resources to aid them in a job search, according to the Department of Veterans' Affairs. These include assistance for the unemployed, a website that allows veterans to download their military work histories, job fairs and other events to help small businesses.
The Defense Department is also working with states and national credentialing agencies to help transfer credentials earned in the military, so veterans can avoid repeating training. Tax credits also encourage the hiring of veterans.
Veterans face two other obstacles in finding jobs at a time when unemployment stubbornly remains above eight percent and there is only modest jobs growth.
Around 69 percent of U.S. job postings are for experienced mid-career workers, but fewer than half of vet resumes meet that criteria. Most employers are also looking for candidates with bachelor's or master's degrees, but only a quarter of vets have such academic qualifications, according to Monster.
Some employers are reluctant to hire veterans because of concerns about mental health, including post-traumatic stress (PTS), McCreary said.
"We do hear anecdotally that some vets, because of the exposure around suicides and PTS, some employers look at them skeptically," he said. "'What am I getting into if I hire a vet?' We think that's an issue."
Although the overall U.S. veteran population is shrinking, the population of 2.7 million men and women who have served since September 2001 is growing by double digits. This group's unemployment rate, 9.2 percent, is well above that of other veterans and above the national average. The jobless rate among young female veterans is even higher, at 9.9 percent.
Friday's U.S. employment report is expected to show 150,000 jobs added in May with the unemployment rate holding steady at 8.1 percent.
(Reporting By Nick Zieminski in New York; Editing by Philip Barbara)