The jobs market for veterans and all Americans is still strong, with another 261,000 hires added in October -- despite the Federal Reserve's prolonged push to fight inflation by cooling off the economy, which has given the nation low unemployment rates.
"Job gains have been robust in recent months, and the unemployment rate has remained low," the Federal Open Market Committee said in a statement Wednesday, even as Fed Chairman Jerome Powell renewed his determination to put the brakes on what he called an "overheated labor market."
But the help-wanted signs are still up, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has held out the possibility that unemployment rates can remain low while avoiding a looming recession and the tsunami of layoffs feared by some analysts.
As the nation's central bank, "the Fed is trying to take some heat out of the labor market" with boosts in the federal funds rate, the rate other banks pay to borrow from the Fed, Yellen told MSNBC last month. But she added, "I believe there is a path by which inflation can come down to comfortable levels while maintaining a strong jobs market."
Her optimism was bolstered by the surprising Oct. 27 report from the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis showing that the U.S. Gross Domestic Product -- the sum of goods and services produced -- had gone up by 2.6% in the third quarter, following contractions in the previous two quarters.
Yellen's view is increasingly open to question on Wall Street, where J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and others have warned that the U.S. and global economies will likely tip into recession next year and put in doubt prospects for veterans seeking jobs or trying to keep the ones they have amid market turmoil.
The Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics' monthly employment situation report released Friday showed that the jobs market remained resilient despite pressure from the Fed, the war in Ukraine and the squeeze on energy from Saudi Arabia's refusal to increase production.
The economy in October added 261,000 jobs, down from the 315,000 job gains in September, but still beating most forecasts that the number would be around 200,000, while the overall unemployment rate ticked up to 3.7% from what had been a 50-year low of 3.5% in September.
Veterans once again outpaced their counterparts in the general population with an unemployment rate in October for all vets of 2.5%, down from the revised estimate of 2.7% in September, the BLS report said. It was the eighth consecutive month that the unemployment rate for all veterans was below 3%.
For the post-9/11 generation of veterans, the unemployment rate in October was 2.8%, up from the 2.3% recorded in September and the remarkably low rate of 1.9% in August.
The BLS data also showed that 3.9 million post-9/11 veterans were employed in October, the highest number recorded since the BLS began separately tracking veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan in 2006.
In a statement on the latest report, BLS Commissioner William Beach said that monthly job growth this year has averaged 407,000 compared with 562,000 per month in 2021. Average hourly earnings have increased by 4.7% over the last 12 months, Beach said, but that was not enough to keep up with an inflation rate estimated at 8.2%.
Advocates who assist veterans with job placement and career counseling were generally positive on the prospects for vets in the job market going forward, while remaining wary of the impact of continuing inflation.
"I can't say there's been a decline in the interest to hire veterans," said Bryan Rollins, the Wounded Warrior Project's director of the Warriors to Work program. "Employers are still seeking to hire veterans. We have not seen a decline in the number of employers coming to us" for advice on hiring veterans.
The Warriors to Work program provides veterans with case managers who do a full year of follow-up with them and their employers to assess progress, said Rollins, a former Navy captain and Top Gun pilot. The goal is not just to find the veteran a job, but the "right" job, he said.
Although jobs are still out there for veterans who want them, or are seeking to switch jobs for better pay, there are troubling signs that more veterans are seeking money management advice to brace themselves against inflation and a possible downturn in the jobs market, Rollins told Military.com.
"We've been doing a lot of outreach to find warriors who have financial concerns to get them into the financial education programs" offered by Warriors to Work, Rollins said.
"That's a bit telling in terms of what warriors are sensing in terms of inflation," Rollins said of the vets seeking advice on how to handle their finances.
He said frequent questions include "how am I going to make my budget if I don't get a pay raise, if I don't get a new job or my wife doesn't go back to work or my husband doesn't go to work -- how are we going to make it work out?"
Similar concerns were voiced by Jolicia Ashford, a veteran employment specialist with AMVETS' Career Center, which has lists of job openings for everything from cashiers and bartenders to cloud engineers and agricultural researchers.
Ashford said she's seen an increase in calls for job assistance this year, although the BLS' latest data showed that job openings had increased while layoffs declined, at least through September.
Robert Frick, corporate economist for Navy Federal Credit Union, has consistently disagreed with predictions of an imminent crash in the labor market and said he sees no reason to change his stance based on the latest data.
"Lots of jobs still need to be filled," he told Military.com. "All the signs point to a vacuum in the labor market that still needs to be filled. We are still five million jobs below the pre-pandemic trend," and there are still about 10 million job openings out there.
In addition, "people are still switching jobs at a very high rate" for better pay or a better position, Frick said. "If they stop switching, then that's a sign of a crack in the labor market.
"The fact that the Fed is raising [interest] rates absolutely is going to cool off the labor market eventually," he added, but "there are still a lot of businesses that are crippled by a lack of workers."
In response to the latest BLS report, the Biden administration seized on the data showing that 261,000 jobs were added in October while noting that unemployment rates have remained near historic lows in recent months despite the uptick to 3.7% in October from 3.5% in September.
"With an average of 289,000 jobs added per month over the past three months, this economy continues to produce steady, stable job growth that benefits workers and their families," Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said in a statement.
Frick offered some advice to those trying to predict the future of the job markets.
"Everything's unusual now. Get used to uncertainty because we're probably going to be facing it for another quarter or two," he said. "There's always a lag between what the Fed does and the effects on the economy. The big fear is that the Fed raises interest rates and it has no effect on inflation."
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.