Jobs fair for veterans returns to Phoenix as unemployment rate falls to new low

Veterans talk with company recruiters at a RecruitMilitary job fair at Nissan Stadium on Feb. 7, 2019, in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo courtesy of RecruitMilitary)

PHOENIX – Chris Newsome’s first job after he left the Army was stacking pallets of condiments while wearing a hairnet. He had served four years as a paratrooper, a weapons squad team leader and an airborne infantry leader, but when he got out, he didn’t know how to translate those skills to include them on his resume.

“I didn’t know how to say I had management experience because I was a noncommissioned officer,” he said. “I took what I thought was the path of least resistance, even if it happened to be a dead-end job.”

RecruitMilitary, which links veterans to job opportunities, has partnered with Disabled American Veterans to change that dead-end career path through free jobs fairs across the country. Participants can directly connect with recruiters from big-name companies across a variety of industries. The 37th recruiting event in metro Phoenix runs Thursday in Glendale and is available to all active military, veterans and their significant others.

Newsome, who’s now senior vice president at RecruitMilitary, said despite veterans having many resources to find a career after serving, many aren’t sure where to begin.

“You’re being introduced to dozens of veteran service organizations in a given market, and it’s very noisy for somebody who has just recently gone through that transition,” Newsome said. “We have more jobs than job seekers in the economy right now, so there’s a wealth of opportunities. … These events dive into specifically hiring for the military community.”

The national rate for veteran unemployment dropped to 3.8% in August, according to a report from the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service in the Department of Labor. For nonveterans, the rate was 5.2%.

“The unemployment rate for veterans and nonveterans has trended down since June as the economy continues to recover from the job losses related to the pandemic,” Jim Borbely, senior economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, said in an email.

Statisticians haven’t found a direct cause for the decrease among veterans, Borbely said, but it has declined across all age groups as the economy rebounds.

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When veterans are leaving the military, they often aren’t told about the kinds of career resources available to them. Ryan Abundo, who was a supply specialist in the Army from 2008 to 2013, said that when he left, he needed to find a job but didn’t know where to start.

“I was married with kids, so I didn’t know what to do, and the first thing in my mind was, ‘I need to provide for my family,’” he said. “They don’t really tell us about what resources we have; we kind of learn from word-of-mouth from other veterans.”

Abundo found the Veteran Readiness and Employment program through the Phoenix Veteran Affairs Office, where he was connected with a case worker who helped him build up his resume and land job interviews. Abundo was hired this year to work in the human resources department at the Veterans Affairs office while attending Grand Canyon University.

“It helped me get my confidence because I didn’t really have any work experience outside of the military,” he said. “When I was getting out, I didn’t really know what to do or what to expect.”

Newsome said RecruitMilitary, headquartered in Virginia, provides online resources for preparing for job interviews and applications, while also inviting organizations hiring veterans to the job fair.

“We’ve tried to make the transitions easier by inviting organizations that specifically have military hiring initiatives,” he said. “These companies truly understand what it means to tap into the military talent space, and in many cases they’re sending prior service members from their recruiting teams so that they can break through that boundary.”

The DAV/RecruitMilitary Job Fair will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday at State Farm Stadium in Glendale. No registration is required for the free event.

Sara Edwards Sa-ruh Ed-words (she/her/hers)
News Reporter, Phoenix

Sara Edwards expects to graduate in May 2022 with a master’s degree focused on business journalism. Edwards, who graduated from ASU in 2021, has interned with Phoenix New Times, Phoenix Magazine and Crime and Justice News. She is working for the Phoenix news bureau.