Does Mpls Really Rank As A “Best City For Veterans”?

A recent list ranked Minneapolis as a top city for veterans to live in, despite significant unemployment disparities between vets and non-vets in Minnesota.
Does Mpls Really Rank As A “Best City For Veterans”?

In our November cover story, Twin Cities Business explored the topic of veterans in the workplace, reporting that post-9/11 veterans are a gold mine of management talent, but not all employers are recognizing that fact.

While Minnesota boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, the state in 2012 actually had the ninth-highest unemployment rate (14.1 percent) for post-9/11 vets, according to a U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee report. In fact, Minnesota had one of the greatest unemployment disparities between vets and non-vets.

TCB’s story examined what efforts are underway to improve matters as more servicemembers return to Minnesota but pointed out that there’s significant work to be done.

Meanwhile, the USAA, a San Antonio financial services company that caters to the military and their families, ranked Minneapolis third on its recently released “Best Places for Veterans” list. The list was also published by Forbes.

Forbes pointed out that USAA examined only eight variables when creating this year’s list, down significantly from 17 last year. The cities were assessed based on these factors: number of industries employing post-9/11 veterans, general unemployment rate, number of government jobs, volume of Defense Department contracts, recent job growth, health resources, concentration of colleges and universities, and proximity to Veterans Affairs hospitals.

The reason for Minneapolis' high ranking appears to be that the report focused largely on general quality of life measures, such as the city’s overall unemployment rate, rather than that specific to veterans. It did call out efforts by individual companies to hire veterans, but Minnesota’s high rate of veteran unemployment is left unmentioned.

In other words, the list provides evidence that Minneapolis is an attractive place for veterans to live but doesn’t reflect whether the city is actually being successful at attracting (and employing) veterans. In fact, U.S. Census Bureau data shows that Minneapolis' unemployment rate for veterans was 7.3 percent in 2012—a far cry from the city's overall jobless rate of 5.4 percent at the time.

Houston topped the USAA’s list. It has a jobless rate of 6.1 percent, its employment ticked up 2.6 percent during the past year, and a variety of businesses—including oilfield services company Bakers Hughes, engineering and construction company Fluor, Honeywell, Waste Management, and Capital One—have veterans’ hiring programs. Meanwhile, median home prices in the city are well below the national average, and Forbes noted that there are several colleges and two Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals in the area. But again, that data is not reflective of the employment picture for veterans specifically: The jobless rate for Houston's vets was about 10 percent in 2012, according to census data.

Texas performed well on the list: Coming in second, behind Houston, was Dallas.

Minneapolis took the third spot on the “Best Places for Veterans” list. Forbes called out large employers—including New Brighton-based construction company API Group and Maplewood-based 3M Company—that have veterans hiring programs. Twin Cities Business’ recent feature story also pointed to efforts by U.S. Bank and Xcel Energy, among others.

Minneapolis’ unemployment rate of around 5 percent, median home price of $167,000, an abundance of colleges and universities, a low crime rate, and steady job growth contributed to the city’s high ranking, Forbes said. As noted previously, those attributes seem attractive to virtually any demographic, rather than specifically to veterans.

Click here to read more in the latest issue of TCB about hiring veterans. To view the full Forbes story, click here.