WASHINGTON — Lakesha Cole has been through six deployments and five base transfers as a spouse of a Marine. Each move has represented an exhausting, if familiar routine: There’s the task of packing and unpacking an entire home. Of enrolling three children under the age of 13 in new schools, and tracking down available child care. Of adjusting to a new neighborhood, with new neighbors and friends and routines.
But perhaps the most draining step of the process is the part where the final decision lies mainly outside Cole’s, and the military’s, control: the near-constant effort to find new jobs in new states, even new countries — “to reinvent myself every time I had to pick up and move,” as Cole, 37, described the experience to NBC News.
There are more than 640,000 spouses of active duty members of the military, 87 percent of them civilian, according to the Defense Department. This group, overwhelmingly women (92 percent), tend to be slightly younger and better-educated than the U.S. population as a whole, according to the latest survey from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce foundation Hiring Our Heroes.
They are also far more likely to be looking for work: the report found that their unemployment rate is roughly four times higher than the national average, at 23 percent in 2015 and 16 percent last year.
That may be because military spouses face unique job hunt challenges. It isn’t just that they move frequently, many times with little notice. There’s also the reality that their new homes on military bases are often located 50 miles or more from the cities that tend to generate the greatest number of, and highest-paying, available jobs.
If spouses have education certifications or licenses, such as those required for employment as a teacher or lawyer, those credentials often don’t transfer between states or countries. And even if they find a place to work, there is often the logistical hurdle of…