By Valerie Bolden-Barrett

HR Drive, May 22, 2019.

Dive Brief:

  • At 16%, military spouses are unemployed at more than four times the rate of civilians, according to a new FlexJobs and Blue Star Families survey. Nearly half of the 500 military spouses interviewed said they have detected discrimination against them during their job search.​ FlexJobs said that as a supporter of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes’ Hiring 100K Military Spouses campaign, it conducted the survey along with its partner, Blue Star Families, to help employers understand military spouses’ experiences and become aware of the talent they bring to the workforce.
  • In key findings of the survey, 91% of respondents said being a military spouse has negatively impacted their career. About a third said they have had to leave a job at least three times due to military relocations. Fifty-six percent have stopped looking for a job because of the difficulty of finding one with long-term sustainability and half have tried to hide their status as a military spouse to avoid being targets of discrimination.
  • The survey also found that the vast majority of military spouses’ main reason for working is personal fulfillment over economic necessity. They appear to make well-qualified hires, with 71% having at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to just 34% of the general population, FlexJobs said, referring to the United States Census Bureau.

Dive Insight:

In light of this research, it appears military spouses can join veterans, people with disabilities and individuals with criminal records as an under-tapped group of talent. Employers stressed by the lack of workers can direct their recruiting efforts to people within these groups. They may find individuals who are well qualified and searching for opportunities.

Some employers have made a specific commitment to hire more military spouses. Walmart said it will give hiring preference to military spouses with its Military Spouse Career Connection initiative. “We have a duty to honor veterans and military families,” Walmart’s Senior Director of Military Programs Gary Profit, a retired brigadier general, said in an announcement at the time. “But, more importantly, they are tremendous assets to our business. Military spouses bring many of the same leadership qualities we see in veterans, yet they are disproportionately unemployed.”

Other employers appear to be targeting the underlying causes of military spouses’ unemployment. Sodexo, a food service and facilities management company, recently partnered with the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation  to examine the career barriers to military spouses and job opportunities in the food services and restaurant industries. The organizations will conduct focus groups with military spouses to gauge their employment needs.

Valerie Bolden-Barrett is a business writer and content specialist, covering best business practices, human resources and management, public policy, employment law, and workplace issues and trends.