The Latest on Military Spouse Unemployment

Life as a military spouse has its ups and downs and one of those less than appealing realities is dealing with the military spouse unemployment issue. It can be very exciting to move around and experience more of the world than you ever thought you would and build friendships globally, but it comes with its fair share of challenges. As soon as your spouse receives a new assignment, a million things go through your head, and at the top of that list is your employment status.

When should you tell your current job? What’s the job market like where you’re moving? Is remote work right for me? What’s the latest resume format? These are probably just a few of the questions you have. If you have a license or certification, you may also be wondering if your new state will allow you to transfer or if the military will pay for you to recertify. It’s truly one of the most stressful aspects of being a military spouse.

This is especially stressful for younger families starting out who rely on two incomes, and though you may be capable of mid-senior level positions, your experience might not fit the bill and you find yourself underemployed. Well, you’re definitely not alone and there are many support groups for you to network and connect with that prove to be extremely helpful.

An Overview of Military Spouse Unemployment

Currently, military spouses face 24-26% unemployment, which is about 10% above the national average. This comes as no shock because military spouses know all too well the mobility factor of military life. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper does acknowledge that in order to support our military, we need to support our military spouses by doing our best to address and decrease military spouse unemployment.

Licensure portability plays a big role in this. It’s reported that as many as 34% of military spouses need a professional license or certification to work in their career field. While some states are improving their methods and reducing their barriers, there is still much to be done. This in-depth initiative compares how all 50 states are handling this specific issue, you can read it in full here. The good news is that the National Defense Authorization Act has doubled the state license reimbursement from $500 to $1000.

Unemployment benefits

A common question that you may be asking is if you’re eligible for unemployment benefits due to a PCS. Most states actually do have legislation in place that allows military spouses to qualify for unemployment benefits when they leave their job due to a PCS. As a matter of fact, there are 46 states that offer eligibility to servicemembers’ spouses. This tool can assist you in finding out if you’re eligible.

Please note that if you are applying, be sure to report the state you’re moving from, not the state you’re moving to. You may even be able to work part-time and collect unemployment, but this all depends on the state.


Online support and networking groups, such as those on Facebook, are amazing resources to use. The military spouses in these groups are either working through the same challenges now or have done it before and offer useful insight. They are active and heavily monitored. Many job opportunities, especially for remote positions, are posted often.

Military Officers Association of America also works diligently to offset military spouse unemployment. MOAA supports making military spouses eligible for Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which is a federal tax credit for employers to encourage them to hire individuals from groups who face barriers to employment. MOAA supports expanding MyCAA, or Military Spouse Career Advancement Account, scholarships. The MyCAA scholarship is currently available to spouses of servicemembers who are E-1 to E-5, W-1 and W-2, and O-1 to O-2, and provides up to $4,000 of financial assistance for associate degrees and occupational certifications/licenses.

Virtual networking events, such as this one at Fort Meade, hope to alleviate military spouse unemployment. Here are some virtual networking events at military installations nationally. Maybe you’ve decided to start looking for a remote job, so you no longer have to worry about what happens with the next move. Many companies are starting to target military spouses for their remote positions, and it’s worth checking out the list.

Military spouses aren’t able to grow within a company unless they’re working remotely. These gaps in resumes don’t sit well with potential employers and it’s easy to rule them out of the running as candidates, no matter how qualified and motivated they are. The upside is that this national concern is recognized, and many organizations are working to address the unemployment rate and essentially improve the quality of life for our military families. In the meantime, research your states policies and join online groups, you’ll find they open the door for many opportunities.