Military Spouse Unemployment & The Impact on American Society
SBMS Core Value: To promote a strong military, we promote strong military families through sustainable employment opportunities and initiatives.
For military families, the option to maintain two sustainable incomes is rapidly becoming a basic need. However, military spouse unemployment rates remain six times higher than civilian unemployment rates. Frequent location changes, lack of access to affordable childcare, and general situational instability lead the causes for the military spouse unemployment and underemployment rates.
As a nation, our all-volunteer military force is only as sustainable as the family units behind the service members. When the military family cannot maintain financial security, the service member leaves the military. Like any other industry, to encourage the retention of qualified service members, the impact on the family must be considered.
“Today, military families are increasingly less likely to recommend military service to their children than they were as recently as five years ago. That should tell us something, and it should scare us.
There is not enough research being done as to the issues, questions, concerns impacting this community, certainly from an economic perspective. Undoubtedly, we are in a position where ...the stability and the health for those families is compromised as a function of the economic situation they face today.”
– Mike Haynie, Executive Director @ The Institute for Veterans & Military Families for Military.com, 2019
The State of U.S. Military Spouse Employment & Military Family Financial Stability
Frequent Moves Make Career Sustainability Challenging
The average military family will move eight to twelve times over the course of a military career. That’s moving to a new location, often in a new state or country, every 1 to 3 years. That means the military spouse must find a new childcare provider, a new job, and possibly transfer a professional license with every move.
Financial Instability is Widespread in the Military Community
According to the latest Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Report, more than 37% of military families reported feeling uncertain about their financial future. 1 in 8 military families experience food insecurity as of 2019. Overall, military families report difficulty making ends meet at twice the rate of civilian families.
Military Families are Opting to Live Apart for Dependent Education & Military Spouse Job Stability
The Military Spouse Pay Gap
The average military spouse makes 26.8% less than their civilian counterparts. Military spouses holding a Master’s Degree or higher make 47% less than their civilian counterparts.
Military Spouse Unemployment has a Costly Societal Impact
Obstacles to Sustainable Military Spouse Employment
The data is clear, military spouse employment numbers are nowhere near where they ought to be. What is preventing military spouses from finding jobs that fit their skill and experience level?
We’ve been talking to military spouses in today’s job market, and here is what they are experiencing on the front lines.
- Interview Bias
- Resume Gaps
- Licensing Issues
- Employer Risk
You would think that every employer would know better than to ask unlawful questions like “What does your spouse do for a living?” – but that’s not the case. Particularly in areas with a high military population, military spouses are often asked if they are affiliated with an active duty service member, and how long they will be at that duty station. Multiple military spouses report that they’ve been asked – in a job interview – about their childcare situation if their spouse deploys or goes to training.
The average military spouse resume may not look the same as those who aren’t military affiliated. They have gaps in their employment. They have more unpaid volunteer positions in place of traditional employment. They statistically are more likely to hold more degrees than their civilian counterparts in lieu of taking a job, because they couldn’t find a job that covered the cost of childcare. Alternatively, there may be a gap in employment because they were stationed in another country and unable to find work.
For employers, there are valid concerns regarding the hiring of military spouses.
Military spouses have a reputation for being ‘short-timers’, and prone to costly higher turnover rates due to the military lifestyle. However, it should be noted that military spouse job tenure rates are generally in line with today’s civilian workforce. In fact, Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that the average tenure for an employee in the general workforce is 4.2 years. For Millennials (that is, the 25-34 age group), the median tenure is only 2.8 years.
Suddenly, 2 to 3 years at each job seems much more commonplace in today’s economy.
For prospective employers, it’s important to understand your rights and responsibilities when hiring from any demographic to ensure that you are treating each applicant fairly based on their merits, not on their spouse’s career parameters.
With a remote work becoming increasingly “the norm”, the ability to extend the life of each employee within a business is certainly more viable for many industries. At The Small Business Marketing Studio, it is our hope that education and easy-to-use programs in the business community will create a more military family friendly job market.
“I’m asking you to take a second look at military spouses when hiring.
Don’t discredit the volunteer hours, or the two to three college degrees they obtained instead of working a ‘normal’ job because they couldn’t find work that justified the cost of childcare at their current duty station.
They had the opportunity to stand idly by due to personal circumstances, and they chose to do something to further themselves. They take entry-level jobs at each duty station just to keep their foot in the door of their desired career field. Every move is like hitting the reset button on their career.
With a mountain of reasons why they couldn’t accomplish their goals, they are consistently finding ways to try and beat the odds. Imagine what that tenacity could do to help you reach your business objectives.”
– Erika Heeren, Founder & President at The Small Business Marketing Studio
The Military Spouse & Veteran Employment Issue
For military families, maintaining a stable civilian career while their service member is active duty is prohibitive due to the nature of the military lifestyle. Military families of all core branches will move every two to three years, or around eight to twelve times over the course of a military career.
The latest Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Survey shows that today’s military spouses and services members overwhelming reported that financial issues and instability are the top stressors associated with being in the military. In fact:
- More than 37% of military families reported feeling uncertain about their financial future.
- Military families report difficulty making ends meet at twice the rate of civilian families.
- More than half of the families in the report stated that the main reason for financial difficulty is that the family’s nonmilitary partner had struggled with unemployment or underemployment.
The issue is not education or experience related, but directly tied to the unstable nature of the military lifestyle. Military spouses today:
- 24% of the military spouse labor force remains unemployed. That’s six times higher than the national unemployment rate.
- The average military spouse makes 26.8% less than their civilian counterparts.
- Military spouses holding a Master’s Degree or higher make 47% less than their civilian counterparts.
- 29.7% of the US civilian population holds a college degree. 40% of military spouses hold an undergraduate degree or higher.
SBMS Solutions & Initiatives to Support Military Spouse Employment
At The Small Business Marketing Studio, it’s our goal to make it easier for business to hire military spouses and veterans.
We’ve created four programs designed to reduce the risk to the business owner, and to create new opportunities for sustainable career growth for military spouses.
The Virtual Marketing Professional Program
The CMO Project
Our network includes a selection of executive-level marketing professionals who are military spouses or veterans.
For businesses who are scaling quickly, our contract CMOs are in high demand for growing small businesses, private and public enterprise companies, non-profit organizations, as well as local, state, and federal government agencies.
This is not a “run and get coffee” type of internship. We offer 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month internships for aspiring marketers and veterans transitioning out of military service into civilian careers.
During an internship, you’ll be going through a comprehensive training program, job shadowing and performing supporting tasks for our Virtual Marketing Professionals, and receiving one-on-one coaching with our President, Erika Heeren. You’ll be working on real client projects, producing great content and driving revenue for small businesses.
Our internship is great for veterans looking to get into the field of marketing right out of the service. As a part of the internship, we’ll work with you to build a resume and portfolio featuring your skillset, and provide interview coaching to help set you up for success as you enter the civilian workforce.
To be notified of the next internship opportunity, join our email list!
Every year, a portion of our profits goes back toward military spouse and veteran career advancement training. Scholarship amounts vary by year, and can be used toward accredited college coursework, accredited certification programs, workshops, and conferences.