Military Recruiting Up as Economy Turns Down

It was inevitable:  As it becomes harder to find work in the civilian sector, more people are turning to their local military recruiter.

The economic downturn and rising unemployment rate are making the military a more attractive option, Pentagon officials say. In some cases, the peace of mind that comes with good benefits and a regular paycheck is overcoming concerns about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which any new enlistee is likely to join.

[…]

Since the military became an all-volunteer force in 1973, recruiters have generally struggled in times of private-sector job growth and done well during recessions. But in addition to the recent downturn, they say they are benefiting from better news out of Iraq, where U.S. casualities are down, and from the election of Barack Obama (D), who has pledged to withdraw troops from Iraq.

The active-duty Army, which like other branches has increased benefits and added recruiters, said last month that it had recruited more than 80,000 soldiers during the past fiscal year, the third year in a row it has met its recruiting goals. Good news for the Army has coincided with terrible news elsewhere. The unemployment rate has jumped from 4.8 to 6.5 percent in the past 12 months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. During that time, the ranks of the unemployed grew by 2.8 million, to 10.1 million.

In an ideal world, people would join the military out of a sense of calling. And, of course, many do. In reality, though, most sign up because it’s the best option available to them and then stay out of some combination of liking the job and the reward of pension and other benefits.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Eneils Bailey says:

    “In reality, though, most sign up because it’s the best option available to them and then stay out of some combination of liking the job and the reward of pension and other benefits.”

    Yeah, most of the retired and disabled veterans I know are living in the lap of luxury and are living their post-retirement in complete mental comfort.

    That’s an absurd statement and you are too smart to indulge yourself in such foolishness.

    Military Veterans are not some poor fools, incapable of living outside a highly structured life, committed to seeking the easy path, and ignoring the fact they stand and fight for fools like you.

    My younger bother and I spent a total of twelve years serving the United States Military back in 1960’s and 1970’s.
    He later became an executive with a Telecom company, retired, and went to teaching high school as a Math teacher.(Algebra, Calculus, and Trigonometry.) He still does. And myself, I went on to form my own company, and I am still in business.

    You need to get out of Washington and stop living your life with the narrative put forth by the democrat party and endorsed by the MSM.

    If you respected military veterans as much as you do the WaPo and NYT, you might change your mind.

  2. John Burgess says:

    Lots of decisions in life are contingent on circumstance. As circumstances change, so do the decisions.

    Going into journalism, for example, was once seen as a smart move. With newspaper crumpling before our eyes, choosing that as a career may be self-limiting.

    Used to be–as recently as last year–that the smart college grad was going into banking or on to Wall St. Over 80% of my son’s friends who followed that path after graduating last year are now looking for new jobs.

    When I was in university, newly-minted PhDs were considering themselves lucky to find jobs pumping gas (oops, that’s not available any more) or teaching kindergarten. Not their first choice, by any means, but a roof over the head and food on the table make for compelling arguments.

  3. Eneils Bailey says:

    Lots of decisions in life are contingent on circumstance. As circumstances change, so do the decisions.

    Things change, can’t tell you how I felt back in the early seventies, fresh out of the United States Navy, with feelings that I left something I loved and entered into a world I knew nothing about.
    Soon learned, it’s not that much different, do the best you can and you will be OK.

  4. James Joyner says:

    You need to get out of Washington and stop living your life with the narrative put forth by the democrat party and endorsed by the MSM.

    If you respected military veterans as much as you do the WaPo and NYT, you might change your mind.

    You realize I’m a veteran, right?

    You’re saying that people who put in their 20 aren’t doing it largely for the sake of getting 50 percent of their base pay for the rest of their life? That’s why my dad did it. Not that soldiers don’t enjoy their service, feel part of something larger than themselves, and so forth. But most wouldn’t stay in twenty or thirty years without the pension.

  5. Eneils Bailey says:

    You realize I’m a veteran, right?

    OK, if you say so. Maybe officially, but in spirit, you come across as something less devoted.

    You’re saying that people who put in their 20 aren’t doing it largely for the sake of getting 50 percent of their base pay for the rest of their life?

    I never tried as to be presumptuous enough to figure out why any individual made any decision. They do what they do; and I try not to attach any motivation that led to the outcome.

    But most wouldn’t stay in twenty or thirty years without the pension.

    Hell, I would not devote twenty to thirty years to any organization without at least, some reward to honest behavior, unless I worked in Washington.

    But, I am not sure that this is the primary reason why all people serve. Maybe, unlike, some people who consider it pure drudgery to serve, with a pension as payback: maybe some people see it as first, an opportunity to serve their country.

  6. just me says:

    James I don’t know if you can say the only reason veterans stay in is for the pension. We have a good friend who was in the Navy with my husband-he originally had no intention of staying when they were in bootcamp and school together, but he discovered that he loved the job he did in the Navy-the eventual pension will be nice-and is definitely a benefit, but it isn’t the main motivating factor. Shoot had my husband not been discharged medically we already knew he wasn’t going to stay in-pension or no pension, it just was too stressful on our family.

    I would also point out that I know a lot of people in civilian jobs that work for the retirement benefits and don’t enjoy their jobs. I also know people who retired recently from teaching that didn’t want to because they would have lost some aspects of their promised pension benefits (so were they teaching for the joy of teaching or were they doing it for the pension?).

    I do have no doubts that during tough times recruitment is high and retention is also likely high. I just find from our own experience with the military there is rarely one reason somebody joins or stays, and it is a large combination of factors some ranking in importance over others-economic down turns likely move closer to the top of the list, but I seriously doubt somebody who really doesn’t have any interest in serving in the military is going to join solely for the pension package.

  7. charles johnson says:

    OK, if you say so. Maybe officially, but in spirit, you come across as something less devoted.

    It’s hard to imagine a person who’s not a vet saying that James, who is a vet, isn’t really a vet, just technically one.

    This is the kind of person who bashed Kerry’s purple hearts.

  8. DC Loser says:

    Typical commenter going off half-cocked before checking the basic facts.

  9. tom p says:

    I remember Deer Camp 2004… sitting around the fire while all these red meat conservatives, who were all too old and too fat, but were all about saying what they would do if they got the chance to go… They were giving a buddy of mine sh*t because he had the audacity to say, “It is a stupid war.”

    He was in the reserves, and he went… They never did.

    People who say why, without ever knowing why, should shut the “F” up. I certainly don’t know why, so I give a “tip of the hat” to those who do, and shut the “F” up.