Transitioning Military Means Transitioning Spouses

By Lynn Brezosky
San Antonio Express-News

SAN ANTONIO

Smartly dressed and equipped with a resume detailing past jobs in management and human resources, Denise Craigen approached recruiters at a recent military job fair, hoping she’d have an edge beyond her work experience.

She spent the past 20-plus years moving around the country because of her husband’s Air Force career, and she says that made her easy to work with and a quick study.

“When we moved, I had to start all over again, every time,” Craigen said. “I think there’s some maturity and life experience that you gather.”

Still, she wasn’t surprised to hear the gloomy results of a report on military spouses’ job prospects.

The Military Officers Association of America and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University recently released a study that found 90 percent of responding female spouses were overqualified for their jobs.

Many other military wives can’t find work. According to the 2012 American Community Survey, one of the data sources for the report, they are three times more likely to be unemployed than their civilian counterparts.

In 2012, 18-to-24-year-old female spouses had an unemployment rate of 30 percent, compared with 11 percent for other women in that age group. The rate for ages 25-44 was 15 percent, compared with civilians’ 6 percent.

The outlook brightens for spouses 45 and up, which MOAA Director of Government Relations Karen Golden attributed to husbands retiring and being able to stay put. But the unemployment rate for the age group still was 5.9 percent, compared with 3.9 percent for civilians.

“The underemployment of spouses is just ridiculous,” said retired Maj. James Cunningham, an organizer of the local military job fair and president of MOAA’s Alamo chapter. “You’re talking about women who’ve had master’s and doctorate degrees, and all they can find is entry-level work.”

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